energy efficiency

Costa Rica has successfully ditched fossil fuels for over two months! 

The Latin American country of Costa Rica has achieved an impressive milestone in green energy production by generating 100 per cent of its energy from renewable resources, with a combination of hydropower and geothermal for 75 days in a row.

Thanks to the favorable rainy conditions in the first months of the year, four of Costa Rica’s hydropower plants — Arenal, Cachí, La Angostura and Pirrís — are generating nearly enough electricity to power the entire country. Using a mix of geothermal, solar, and wind energy sources, the nation of 5 million inhabitants hasn’t needed an ounce of coal or petroleum to keep the lights on since December of 2014.

What an extraordinary effort by a small nation! Way to go!

Science teacher Mas Subramanian and his team at Oregon State University accidentally discovered a new shade of blue while creating new electronics materials. YInMn blue, named after yttrium, indium, and manganese, has a unique, crystal structure that keeps it from fading and is a new candidate for energy efficiency because it can also reflect infrared light.

Madeline Corbin, an intern in Subramanian’s lab, uses YInMn Blue in her artwork, ‘ OSU Memorial Union Façade.’ Photo via: Oregon State University.  

Existing blue pigments include ultramarine, which is made from ground lapis lazuli, as well as toxic alternatives like cobalt and Prussian blue, making OSU’s discovery a major breakthrough.


Advocating For Glow-in-the-dark Roads With Vincent Van Gogh

A glow-in-the-dark bike route inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” debuted this week in the Netherlands. It’s part of a larger vision to illuminate infrastructure with solar energy captured during the day.

The kilometer-long “Van Gogh Bicycle Path” is located in Eindhoven, its swirls composed of thousands of glow-in-the-dark stones embedded in concrete (along with some guiding LEDs fueled by solar panels). It’s the latest component of the Smart Highway project. Led by Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde’s Studio Roosegaarde with Heijmans Infrastructure, the goal is “to make smart roads by using light, energy and road signs that interact with the traffic situation.”


Why Are You Still Washing Your Clothes In Warm Water?

Back in the day — before washing machines or soap — people cleaned their laundry by boiling it in water. Besides killing lice, the hot water helped get rid of sweat and stains.

Now, we rely on the mechanical motion of our washers and the chemical reactions from detergents. Unless you have a good reason for using the warm or hot cycles (really stinky clothes or cloth diapers), warm water is no longer necessary.

Of the total energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions produced by a single load of laundry, approximately 75% of it comes from warming the water itself.

A recent estimate from Consumer Reports suggests that using a cold-water detergent and setting your machine to 60 °F (compared to 75 °F) can save you at least $60 per year in utilities.

As io9 explains:

Think of it this way: If every Las Vegas household switched to cold washing for an entire year, the amount of energy saved could power its famous Strip for nearly a week. If every household across the U.S. switched to cold water for an entire year, that would save the same amount of energy produced by the Hoover Dam in 20 months.

Whatever you decide to do with your laundry, just don’t be like this guy:

Originally posted by agypsycrystal

UC folks: Have you signed up for the yet? Use the Cool Climate Calculator to understand your carbon footprint. There’s also a bunch of easy tips (like this one) that you can use to save energy.


I was in Munich this weekend and noticed that almost all the escalators in the subway stations were bi-directional. When no one is there, the escalator is not moving. When it detects motion at the bottom of the escalator, it begins moving up. If it detects motion at the top, it begins moving down. The lighted symbols in the photos above indicate whether the escalator is running in your direction or the opposite.

Seems a bit banal, but this is a great energy efficiency idea. First, there is no point in having escalators moving with no one riding them. And second, making them bi-directional means you only need one escalator, not two.


From Montreal to Finland, residential greenhouses are on the rise

The eight families occupying the Maison Productive House in Montreal’s Pointe–Saint-Charles neighbourhood enjoy freshly picked produce year-round without having to step foot off the property. The building, completed in 2010, features a rooftop greenhouse that residents use to grow everything from lettuce to watermelon. Architect Rune Kongshaug, principal and founder of Produktif Studio, based in New York and Montreal, conceptualized the design as a carbon-neutral, self-sufficient structure, and it’s among a mere sixdozen residential buildings in Canada certified as LEED Platinum.

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These Smart Streetlights Only Get Bright When They’re Needed

Cities spend massive amounts of money on electricity to light the street. But most of the time no one is there. This smart technology can sense when a car or pedestrian is approaching.

As much as half of a city’s electricity bill is from simply powering streetlights. Now a Dutch company’s design for smart street lights, which brighten only when needed, might help save massive amounts of that energy.

The Tvilight system works by sensing someone on the street–whether it’s a car, cyclist, or pedestrian–and instantly gets brighter in exactly the right place, while other lights stay on at a dim level. It’s quite a bit more complicated than the typical motion sensor lights you might see inside an office. Instead of just one light, the system illuminates multiple lights all around a moving vehicle or pedestrian.

The company’s founder was inspired to design the lights while working at another job that required frequent travel. “When I was flying, I was amazed to see how many streetlights are burning all night even when there’s no one around,” says Chintan Shah, CEO of Tvilight. “With a little research, I found out that Europe pays over €10 billion each year only to power streetlights. And this is shocking. Why do we need so much light when no one is there?”

Shah likens the effect to the spotlight that followed Michael Jackson around the stage as he danced the moonwalk. No matter where someone goes, a “safe circle of light” is always there. That means each of the lights needs to be able to communicate, in microseconds, with its neighbors.

The sensors inside are also smart enough to know not to activate the lights when a bird flies by, or when wind moves tree branches. The system can even tell what type of object is approaching; since a car moves faster, the lights around it are a bigger diameter and start brightening farther down the block.

“Five years ago, wireless sensors were not ready for this challenge,” says Shah. Now that reliable low-power sensor network technology is available, his team was able to build a custom combination of sensors that could filter out movement to know how and when to illuminate.

Soon, the company will also program custom lights for certain situations–a fire truck driving down the street, for example, will be able to turn the streetlights red as it passes to help alert other drivers.

Since Tvilight’s first installation of the lights in 2011, hundreds of the systems have been installed–at train stations, parking lots, a castle in Germany, and even an entire town in the Netherlands. Now the company hopes to move from selling directly to cities to work with distributors and other streetlight manufacturers, so it can spread the technology more quickly.

Everywhere the lights have been installed, Shah says they’ve had a positive response. Since the lights are never fully turned off, but just dimmed by 30%, it’s easy to see even if you’re just looking out the window of a house and nothing is driving by. And just by dimming the lights, energy usage can be cut 50% to 60%.

“The world talks about the challenge of climate change, but there are really practical solutions like this,” Shah says. “If we apply them, we’ll achieve our 2020 targets. I think it’s time that the world gets serious about implementing solutions that are readily available.”

Source: Fast Co.Exist

Related: ‘Borrowed Light’ and Light Pollution

This High Concentration Photovoltaic Thermal System (HCPVT) can harness the energy of 2,000 suns and provide fresh water and air conditioning in remote locations. The prototype HCPVT system under development uses a large parabolic dish, made from a multitude of mirror facets, which is attached to a tracking system that determines the best angle based on the position of the sun. Once aligned, the sun’s rays reflect off the mirror onto several microchannel-liquid cooled receivers with triple junction photovoltaic chips – each 1x1 centimeter chip can convert 200-250 watts, on average, over a typical eight hour day in a sunny region.

Read more:


FLEXlab: A Test Bed for Building Efficiency

The U.S. Department of Energy unveiled the FLEXlab test bed, created to help buildings save energy, at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley. It is the only facility of its kind in the world, and its arrival marks significant moment as California attempts to cut the amount of electricity its buildings use. Researchers can easily swap out the lab’s heating, air conditioning and lighting, and even its windows. Furthermore, they can see how all of those elements perform together, not just one system at a time. A portion of the lab, resting on a concrete turntable that weighs a half-million pounds, can rotate 270 degrees to test how different angles of sunlight affect energy use. Sensors inside adjust temperature to minimize energy use while maximizing comfort. “We built FLEXlab with reconfiguration in mind…It’s like a kit of parts,” says Cindy Regnier, executive manager of the project. "This is about understanding the performance of a building before you spend millions of dollars on it.“ 


Tesla Powerwall Home Battery

Tesla Motors’ new project called Tesla Energy and it revolves around the installation of batteries for homes and businesses. Powerwall is the name given to the battery configured to operate inside your home while thePowerpack is most suitable for you business.

Lighter cars, better mileage

If you replaced steel and aluminum components and body parts with magnesium metal ones, you’d have automobiles that are as much as 50% lighter! That means they would be more fuel-efficient than their heavier pals. 

The race towards lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles just ramped up a notch. 

Infinium, a small business funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), has developed a new way to make magnesium metal – a zero-emissions, energy efficient technology that also costs much less than current production methods:

NASA’s Shapeshifting Airplane Wings Pass Flight Tests

It’s not reinventing the wheel, but it’s close. NASA, working together with the Air Force Research Laboratory, announced yesterday that they’ve successfully flown a plane with a new, flexible wing–the kind that could change how all future fixed-wing aircraft fly.

Added to the rear edge of a Gulfstream III jet’s wings, the technology could cut airplane fuel consumption by up to 12 percent. “Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge” is its name, and it’s made out of a bendy material whose identity has not been revealed by its maker, FlexSys.

The shape-changing wings are an alternative to flaps, whose hard edges generate drag and noise. That drag is, at times, sort of the point. Looking out a wing seat on a jetliner as it lands, it’s possible to see the flaps angling down to increase the size of the wing and slow the speed of the plane as it lands. The flexible edge still allows this, bending and contorting in drag-increasing ways when needed, but it does it all under a smooth, continuous surface. Servos and actuators inside the flexible shell of the aircraft pull strings that then contort the wings’ surface, bending and warping to produce an effect similar to mechanical flaps. The smooth wings promise to be more aerodynamic in flight, which helps to save on fuel.

For the tests, NASA flew the plane 22 times, with flaps fixed in position for each flight. Those angels ranged from 1 degree downward to 30 degrees upward. In future tests, which NASA has at least seven more planned, the wings will likely change angles during the flight.


GREEN BUILDING:  How Energy-Efficient Buildings Benefit Cities

Green buildings play an important role in shaping sustainable cities of the future, as shown in the graphics above, from a recent analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI). Correctly done, energy-efficient buildings yield social, environmental and economic benefits. 

Urbanization presents major challenges: congestion, sprawl, inefficiency, health hazards and high cost of living, and others. But in elaborate sustainable plans, experts sometimes overlook cities’ most iconic landmarks—buildings. Improving the energy efficiency of buildings is an often overlooked strategy that can help alleviate many of the challenges cities face—from climate change to public health problems to unemployment and poverty.

Recent WRI research highlights four of the basic economic, social and environmental opportunities building efficiency creates:

  1. Buildings are large, long-lasting investments. Efficient buildings provide better social and financial returns.
  2. Building efficiently the first time offers huge economic opportunities, particularly for developing nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
  3. Building efficiency is one of the most affordable ways to curb climate change.
  4. Building efficiency can significantly reduce illness and death related to air pollution, particularly in the places suffering the most.

Learn more here

A verdant wave, swelling on a tract of land in northern France, actually turns out to be a house by Patrick Nadeau. His firm was one of five that won a competition organized by Groupe Plurial—the goal being to build an energy-efficient residence with a budget equivalent to $340,000. Nadeau’s design uses a blanket of grasses, herbs, and succulents as thermal insulation. Photography by Hervé Ternisien.

Magnets Mean Your New Refrigerator Will Make History

by Michael Keller

Coming soon to a kitchen near you—magnets in your refrigerator. And we’re not talking about slapping your kid’s artwork inside the fridge next to the milk and butter.

It’s the next generation of residential food and drink cooling, and it’s powered by magnets. Gone will be the almost century-old unit in your kitchen that uses a heat-transfer process based on liquid refrigerants called vapor compression refrigeration. Condensers and refrigerants will be replaced with magnets and special alloys that get hot and cold based on their proximity to magnetic fields. The technology could also be used for air-conditioning.

Magnetic refrigeration, proponents say, is a rapidly approaching technology that will amount to a revolution in domestic energy use.

“It’s the equivalent to a gas-powered car moving to electric—that’s the kind of leap we’re making in refrigeration,” said Ed Vineyard, a senior researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Vineyard’s Building Technologies Program has teamed up with GE to bring magnetic refrigeration to the public in around five years.

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MiniHome Solo - 480 Square Foot Prefab

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The company has been designing and manufacturing eco-friendly and sustainable prefab homes since 2002, and their latest model offers a great balance between wide market appeal and price. The Solo 40 is longer, wider, more spacious, and resembles conventional homes in its layout. It measures 480 square feet and the fully equipped model costs only $195 per square foot… continues…” – Jetson Green

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