Bill Gates at TED2010: We Need Energy Miracles

Of all the speeches and talks I’ve heard on climate change, Bill Gates’ recent TED2010 talk was the most pragmatic and thoughtful.  Titled “Innovating to Zero,” Gates touches on our need to strive towards zero CO2 emissions.  Unlike other climate talks, which tend to either be full of hubris or broad reaching statements, Gates presented several clear ideas and equations for strategies that could potentially lead us to this goal.  His tone was optimistic but somber, admitting that there are many barriers (cost and regulation were among the highest) to things like carbon capture technology, nuclear energy and renewables growing into mainstream adoption.

I tried with no luck to embed the video from the TED website, but here is the link.  It’s worth the 27 minutes and kudos to Gates for presenting a more logical perspective in a time when extra snow in the DC area means there’s no such thing as global warming.  Sigh.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Live! from CEA’s Greener Gadgets in NYC

The Greener Gadgets Conference opens today in NYC at the McGraw-Hill Conference Center.  The conference will tackle all of the issues surrounding energy efficiency and sustainable design, from innovative advances in packaging and product manufacturing to end-of-life recycling solutions. It will also highlight ways in which electronics make a major impact by utilizing renewable energy in developing nations.

With panel discussions, networking and a design competition, the 2010 conference should be something to look forward to!

Green Life Smart Life founder Kim Lancaster will be speaking the “Green Living Begins at Home” panel with panelists like Sarah Krasley from Autodesk and moderator Sarah Rich from Dwell Magazine.  The panel description reads: Greening your life is an everyday process, starting with the place you begin every day. From building to remodeling, home automation to energy management, green living begins at home. Listen to experts discuss sustainable design strategies for urban and rural locations, creating plans for a home that is both high-tech and green.

I will be attending the event as both a blogger and moral support provider for Kim and hope to live blog and add updates & pictures throughout the show (especially during her panel at 10:40 am ET).

Check my Twitter feed for more up to the minute coverage as well: @ashleydano

Save your desktop some energy!

Mac users as well as any other PC user out there, needs to know the truth.  That computer of yours is an energy sucking piece of machinery.  We all love our computer’s, they are an extension of ourselves, almost like a removable limb.  It is almost impossible to imagine functioning in our everyday lives without one by our side! 

90% of desktops do not run efficiently.  It is a real simple fix and it’s rather silly if you don’t opt to save yourself money and your computer some more generous time as your extra limb.  Doing this is free and simple and in the end you will thank yourself and so will your computer.  EZ Wizard is a great tool on the Energy Star Website that can help you out!

For Mac users this is really simple and frankly if you already own a Mac following the steps is easy as 1-2-3.  However for all you PC users, this is not hard as long as you follow directions fairly well.  For Mac users simply go to the apple pull down menu and select “system preference” and then click on “energy saver” You can figure it out from there. 

Now for the rest of you, begin on the “start” menu and from there navigate yourself to “settings” and then head to the “control panel”, now click on “power management” then “power schemes.” From there you can set the settings to your liking.  Each list will allow you to set how long you want to wait before your computer goes into “energy saving mode.”

Another great way to save on energy and rack up some extra money in energy savings would be to switch to a new energy efficient LCD monitor.  You could easily get a 24” monitor and it will save you more money than your tiny 13” that isn’t set properly. Remember nothing will save you more money than shutting of your computer when not in use.  But for those who don’t see this as an option follow these steps and make your computer a greener piece of machinery in your home. 

Posted by: Kate Kiselka, follow me on Twitter

Bad Wine Makes for Good Energy

So here at Green Life Smart Life, it is safe to say that most of us have a very deep loving relationship with wine, so imagine our delight to know that bad wine can actually save us money.

In this article from, scientists in the United States and India are turning the unused sugar and unwanted vinegar resulting from improper fermentation into electricity and hydrogen. The technology could provide a new and cost effective way to clean wastewater from wineries and get some value out of a bad bottle of wine.

“There is nothing special about the bacteria,” said Bruce Logan, a scientist at Penn State University who recently installed a microbial electrolysis cell at a winery in Napa Valley, Calif. “We just give them a good environment to grow in.”

A good home and plenty of food, that is. It takes a lot of water to grow, harvest, process and ferment the sugar in grapes into the alcohol Americans love to consume by the bottle.

All that wastewater, loaded with unfermented sugar, improperly fermented vinegar, biomass and other contaminants, has to be cleaned, and cleaning wastewater is expensive.

According to Logan’s estimates, about 1.5 percent of all the electricity in the U.S. goes into wastewater treatment. Up to 5 percent of all the country’s electricity goes into our nation’s water management systems.

The winery, Napa Wine Co. in Oakville, Calif., doesn’t have specific statistics on how much they pay to treat their wastewater, but it is expensive.

To offset the cost of treatment, the winery owners installed a 1,000-liter, refrigerator-sized microbial electrolysis cell to help treat some of the wastewater. Until this point, Logan’s microbial fuel and electrolysis cells have been smaller than a teakettle.

Two steps are required to treat the water flowing into the unit. First, one group of bacteria turns unused sugar and unwanted vinegar from improper fermentation into electricity. It’s a small amount, however, not enough to reach the 1.2 volts necessary to split water; therefore, a little extra electricity from the normal power grid is needed. Another group of bacteria uses that electricity to split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, which escape into the atmosphere.

At least, that’s the idea. “We are producing more methane than we wanted,” said Logan, who is trying to correct the problem. The scientists could collect the hydrogen for a fuel cell or burn the methane for heat, said Logan, but for now they let it escape into the atmosphere.

The microbial electrolysis cell only treats one-tenth of 1 percent of all the winery’s wastewater, most of which flows into a traditional treatment lagoon.

The project isn’t meant to save the winery a significant amount of money, just to prove the technology is feasible. Logan estimates it will take three to five years before a commercially viable microbial electrolysis cell is available.

While Logan uses a microbial electrolysis cell to split water, a group of scientists from India recently developed a microbial fuel cell that uses wine to produce energy.

“Sugars like glucose, alcohols and effluents containing sugars or alcohols can be used (to produce electricity),” said Sheela Berchmans, a professor at the Central Electrochemical Research Institute in India, who recently co-authored a paper in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Two different bacteria can spoil wine, Acetobacter aceti and Bluconobacter roseus. The scientists from India created microbial fuel cells using single cultures of each bacteria as well as both together.

A fuel cell with A. aceti or B. roseus produced a mild electrical current, about 213 milliwatts for the former and 395 milliwatts for the latter. Put them together, however, and the combination can generate 859 milliwatts of power.

“The mixture of the cell cultures improves metabolic degradation,” said Berchmans.

B. roseus is great at breaking down the glucose into acetic acid but not great at creating electricity. A. aceti can’t use sugar as well as B. roseus can, but it can turn acetic acid into electricity.

In other words, one bacteria’s waste is another bacteria’s food.

However, the electricity is produced its not much — at least not yet.

The scientists hope that the technology could eventually be scaled up to produce more electricity or help to save electricity that would normally be used to treat wastewater.

LEED for Homes Point by Point – Energy & Atmosphere

Energy and Atmosphere: 21.5 points achieved out of 36 points available::

The overall goal of EA is to optimize energy performance of the building. We opted to follow the performance path which meant our world be rated according to the ENERGY STAR for home standards (the document can be found here). ENERGY STAR was simply the pre-requisite which everyone in LEED-H is required to meet; your points only begin to accumulate for exceptional energy performance. HERS stands for Home Energy Rating Standard and is based on a performance scale of 100. Based on a 100 point scale which is an average home, a home achieving HERS 85 is 15% more efficient. If you are familiar to the term NET ZERO, it is a similar scale, where NET ZERO means the home consumes zero percent more energy than it produces annually.

In our case, our preliminary HERS rating based on our building envelope leakage rate of less than 4%, our windows, our solar gain, our roof’s solar reflective index (SRI), our sprayfoam insulation, our geothermal HVAC system, and all of the design elements placed us at a HERS of 58, making our home 42% more efficient than an average home. This achieved us 19.5 points under EA 1. In addition we achieved 2 points for the efficient design of our hot water system which included compact plumbing runs achieved thorugh back-to-back bathrooms and a superheater added to our hot water tanks.

Posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

GE, Whirlpool, Others Launch Smart Green Grid Initiative



Whirlpool Corporation (NYSE: WHR) and a number of other companies announced the creation of a new collaborative effort aimed at demonstrating the role of smart grid technologies and practices in the achievement of climate change goals.

Called the Smart Green Grid Initiative (SGGI), the effort will include educational events at the upcoming climate change meetings in Copenhagen. SGGI has been approved by the United Nations to be an official smart grid delegation to the Copenhagen meetings. SGGI will also be sponsoring educational events in the U.S. in the weeks preceding the meetings in Copenhagen.

Supporters of the Smart Green Grid Initiative include National Grid (NYSE: NGG), Southern Company (NYSE: SO), AEP (NYSE: AEP), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), LG Electronics (LGERF.PK),Landis + Gyr, Echelon (Nasdaq: ELON), Tendril, Ice Energy, Enspiria, eMeter and Itron (Nasdaq: ITRI).

“We need to help the world understand the real potential for Smart Grid technologies to help slow climate change,” said Bob Gilligan, vice president of GE Energy’s Transmission and Distribution business. “Smart Grid solutions are often viewed primarily for their efficiency and cost savings, but every kilowatt saved is also a carbon savings. Add the potential carbon benefits we get through easier integration of more renewable energy, like wind and solar, and the Smart Grid can have a major effect on the carbon impact of our energy infrastructure.”

For example, with a key component of climate change policies being increased use of renewable energy, SGGI said it will try to help parties understand and manage its variable and intermittent nature. It will try to demonstrate that demand response and energy storage solutions can dynamically complement renewable resources–and avoid the building of new fossil-fuel power plants to fill the availability gaps and peak needs.

“Another important area is energy efficiency,” said Dan Delurey, Chairman of the Smart Green Grid Initiative. “Today, it is important to view energy efficiency in a more holistic and dynamic way than in the past. New technologies and applications mean that energy efficiency can mean more than just replacing one device with a newer, more efficient one. It can include providing new information to the consumer that they have simply never had before. Research has shown that electricity customers with energy usage information become more energy efficient overall–by upwards of 15%. The Smart Grid may help make energy efficiency sustainable and institutionalized in business and society.”

The Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition and the Demand Response Coordinating Committee, the leading groups in the U.S. focused on promoting the development of the Smart Grid and smart grid practices like Demand Response, also will be supporting SGGI.


KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster


National Grid Applies for $200 Million in Stimulus Funding for Largest Collective Smart Grid Project in the Northeast

National Grid, the nation’s second-largest utility, has applied to the U.S. Department of Energy for $200 million in stimulus funding to develop an “end-to-end” smart grid deployment that will include approximately 200,000 customers in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Through its smart grid program, National Grid is partnering with the three states to help them achieve their vision for a clean, efficient energy network of the future while creating new jobs and economic development opportunities for the region. The smart grid program will provide residential and business customers across the northeast with unprecedented ability to reduce their energy consumption, carbon emissions and utility bills.

National Grid’s project will demonstrate the benefits of combining “smart” and “green” technologies from end-to-end (transmission to consumer) including demonstrations of clean energy technologies such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and solar and wind power as well as energy storage technology. The result will be one of the most technologically advanced smart grid deployments in the U.S. This initiative will provide an increased understanding of the interface between the next generation of green energy supply and the smart grid to pave the way for the broader roll out of these technologies in the states where National Grid operates.

Visit the National Grid website for all the details.

Posted by: Lauren