Posts tagged ‘IT energy savings’

January 22, 2013

Energy co-operatives

Co-operatives are traditionally an efficient and successful way for communities that aim to live or work with certain benefits through co-operation. Co-operatives are usually created by people working, living together or by those consuming products or services as a group.

Utility co-operatives have been around in the US since the New Deal but recently there are more and more such co-operatives set up all around the world, which focus on green and alternative energy usage.

These co-ops provide an opportunity for local people to invest into various projects, for example setting up new solar panels or a wind turbine. Then, the co-operative provides interest for these investors from feed-in-tariffs or by selling electricity.

In Germany, the number of energy co-operatives has tripled to more than 600 in two years, with over 80,000 active members. The largest of these is EWS, where 99.2 per cent of the electricity comes from renewable sources and 0.8 per cent is from the co-generation of heat and power (CHP).

But Germany is not alone. In the UK, there are also an increasing number of such community initiatives.

Brixton Energy already has two existing solar projects in the Loughborough Estate with hundreds of square metres of solar panels, while Community Energy Warwick raised enough money for solar panels to be placed on the roofs of the Stratford upon Avon and Warwick hospitals. Meanwhile, the Brighton Energy Co-op recently set up “the largest solar system in Sussex”, with installations in Shoreham-by-sea, Portslade and Brighton.

But the list goes on: Leominster Community Solar, Ovesco, Bath & West Community Energy, Westmill Wind Farm, Baywind Energy, Hockerton Housing Project, Boyndie Wind Farm, and many others – with a total of 75 utility co-ops listed with Co-operatives UK.

Renewable energy co-operatives thus could mean the future for renewables with local communities joining forces to gain access to cheap (or free) energy sources by working together.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse 

January 8, 2013

Oil for computers?

We all know that you should keep your computer away from any kind of liquid. However Intel has just recently conducted a trial by dipping their servers into mineral oil for a year, ultimately with great success.

The aim of this research project was to investigate how to make data centre cooling more efficient, perhaps even moving away from traditional air cooling. While some companies, like Google or Facebook are re-locating their whole data centres to Northern countries, the mineral oil bath could be an easier solution.

Intel conducted the experiment in New Mexico together with Green Revolution Cooling, and during the course of one year it turned out to be more efficient than fan-based air cooling. What’s more, none of the computer components were damaged while submerged, either.

Data centres consume enormous amounts of energy. According to some recent data, server management, power and cooling on unused systems inside data centres amount to USD 24.7 billion per year. These unused machines may even make up 15 per cent of all data centre servers, increasing the level of inefficiency and costs even more.

Intel is not the first company to investigate liquid cooling methods. A start-up called Iceotope has also achieved impressive results by using their own cooling liquid, called Novec.

Hence, with more and more research in this area, hopefully data centres could become more efficient, which is crucial in the ever-connected online world of today.

September 10, 2012

A New Way to ‘Recycle’ Paper

Traditional paper recycling may take weeks including collection, delivery to the plant as well as the process itself. Would it not be easier if we could just recycle the paper in our homes or in the office directly?

Researchers at Cambridge University are now investigating the options to erase ink from printed paper, so they can be re-used immediately on the spot. They have tested several lasers at removing or rather vapourising toner from the paper and successfully managed to do so without damaging the paper. What’s more, a paper can be used up to five times.

‘Unprinting’ can thus not only save time and money but also save fresh water, electricity and reduce carbon emissions, which would be generated by the recycling industry.

While the Cambridge-based scientists used conventional paper with conventional ink, Toshiba developed its erasable toner system in 2003, which may soon come to Europe. The e-Blue ink fades if heated to above 130 Celsius degrees, but is currently only available in blue. Japanese companies who already able to test the solution managed to save about 40-60 per cent on paper usage. According to some data it takes about two hours to erase about 200 pages with this system. Due to issues with high power consumption and being very expensive, Toshiba is now working on more favourable successors.

Disappearing ink has already been tested as well. A few years ago, Xerox was working on an ink that would disappear after 16-24 hours, which could be ideal for industries, where printed materials are not needed for longer than this. One of the best applications may be the printed daily menus of restaurants.

With so many different research projects on how to avoid the lengthy and energy-intensive process of paper recycling, hopefully in the near future we will be able to easily recycle our own paper. The best solution however still may be to think before printing.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

September 5, 2011

Electricity Without Walls

Have you dreamt about a world where you don’t need to carry dozens of chargers for different gadgets or where your electric car may just be charged wirelessly while parked.

Ever since Nicolas Tesla tried to prove the possibility of wireless power transmission between continents with his Wardenclyffe Tower in 1901 [1], it has been the subject of much research.

Wireless electricity transfer already exists in our every day life, for example in electric toothbrushes and universal mobile phone charging mats. These use magnetic induction but it’s highly inefficient and it only acts on a very short distance.

Technologies for longer distance wireless electricity transfer include lasers or microwaves, which have been also reviewed for solar power satellites to send energy by beaming it to the Earth.

There are already products with this technology available, mainly in the consumer electronics section. Some examples are Haier’s wireless HDTV or Sony’s Bravia LCD TV, that allow people to place the TVs anywhere they want inside the house, without worrying where the closest socket is.

Research

Many companies as well as universities have been working on the improvement of wireless energy transmission.

In 2008 Intel showcased its Wireless Resonant Energy Link (WREL) technology, using magnetic resonance for transferring power and lighting a 60W light bulb with the power from the source that was three feet away. The advantage of this solution shall be mobility, as it works on greater distances than currently used methods. In the future these coils could be embedded anywhere (for instance gadgets and devices in the homes), while providing increased efficiency.

Also, in 2007 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) a project called WiTricity was conducted on wireless energy transfer. Later a spin-off company was founded based on the research, and today it operates with several commercial partners – amongst others with an investment from Toyota. Their technology is ideal for medium-range power transfer, and already offers a very high 95 per cent efficiency.

The Business Segment

Besides WiTricity there are several companies interested in wireless energy transmission. An industry organisation, the Wireless Power Consortium [11] already has more than 90 members, including France Telecom, Haier, HTC, LG, Motorola Mobility, Nokia, Panasonic, Samsung, or Sony-Ericsson. It focuses on introducing an international standard for compatible wireless charging stations.

The Future

For more than a hundred years researchers were trying to develop the feasible solution for transferring energy wirelessly. Nowadays the majority of households have wireless Internet connection, so wireless power may only be one step forward. And with so many companies working on it, it may be closer than one would think.

[1] BBC Focus Magazine, Issue 233, September 2011, “Electric Dreams”, Paul Parsons, page 64-67

 

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

 

 

 

August 8, 2011

Save Energy With Your Smartphone

As smartphones are becoming more and more popular, it seems that there is a need for an ’app’ for everything. Besides plenty of games and business applications there are now also a lot of ’green’ ones available, which can even help people to save energy.

Energy-saving apps

There are four basic types of apps available in various app stores, which offer energy saving solutions.

  • Some give daily advice and information for users on how to consume less electricity, gas or water, and some even include consumption data of various home appliances, like Kill-O-Watts, Green Outlet, Watts Plus or TV Energy Labels, which specifically lists the consumption data of various TV brands. Shopgreen logs the carbon-dioxide savings with an integrated EcoBank providing rewards for users, while MyEnergyTips offers customised advice, and the This is Green app lists a wide array of useful information.
  • Numerous apps offer direct connection to home electronic systems and networks, acting as a ’remote control’ for managing devices. These can be useful, for example, when the user forgot to switch off the lights before leaving the house, but can easily do so with the help of these state-of-the-art apps. Some examples include the ecobee Smart Thermostat working via a WiFi network, Control4 My Home, or the Schlage LINK, which even enables the remote monitoring of doors.
  • A third type of app allows users to track their consumption, either that of gas, electricity or water in their homes, or the fuel used when driving.

Household consumption can be traced with the official British Gas App, through which also meter readings can be submitted; as well as with Meter Readings, MeterRead, or the My Water Diary app.

Fuel consumption tracking is offered, amongst others, by the Carbon Footprint or the GreenMeter applications.

  • There are also a number of apps available for various types of smartphones, enabling interesting solutions and methods for saving energy.

The AlertMe Energy Map shows the average total energy, electricity and gas consumption per household per year in a certain neighbourhood in the UK. Users thus can even compare their local data with other British boroughs.

The Sun Tracker app gives information for users specifically to their location about the hours of direct sunlight for calculating solar energy for installations, while the SunPower Monitoring app helps in monitoring the energy level generated by an already installed home solar system. Another interesting app is the The Create Green Energy, a guide on how to build cheap solar panels or wind turbines at home.

Overall, there are more and more apps available for the growing number of smartphones based on Apple’s, Blackberry’s or the Android operating system, which can help everyday people not only in saving energy but also at saving money.

 

Written for Energy Saving Warehouse

July 19, 2011

Can Clouds Save Energy?

Cloud computing is latest buzzword in the IT industry and also more and more mass-market companies are introducing their so-called ‘cloud services’, including Google, Microsoft and now Apple. 

 

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing enables both businesses and individuals to access software, infrastructure or storage space over the Internet. Thus there is no need for clunky home PCs, servers or vast IT infrastructure at companies. Instead, large data centres serve customers from a distance, offering only as much as customers wish or need at any given moment, on demand.

Such cloud computing services include online email systems (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.), as well as online document-handling services like Google Docs or online storage, like Rackspace, besides numerous business applications.

How could cloud computing save energy?

Besides several other advantages of cloud computing, such as scalability, customizability, and cost efficiency through paying for only what one uses, these services also create an opportunity to save energy.

A great number of hardware, which performance is not entirely used and eventually becomes e-waste, can be avoided, while overall energy consumption and so carbon emissions can be lowered both at private users and businesses.

A good example is Google, which is well-known to apply innovative solutions and invest into green energy developments. It claims that its data centres use only a half of the energy of a typical data centre, and Google Energy LLC has been founded to purchase renewable (mainly wind) energy for the company’s operations.

Similarly, Microsoft uses a significant ratio of renewable energy and is also located in ‘sustainable buildings’. Furthermore, Microsoft recently commissioned a study, according to which cloud computing solutions at large firms could decrease energy consumption by thirty to sixty per cent, while this could reach even ninety per cent at smaller companies.

Challenges

While cloud computing can be promising for energy reductions at IT operations, there are also some challenges to overcome.

According to Greenpeace, global data usage is expected to grow significantly in the coming years and decades, which means increased load for data centres, as well as growing emissions.

Answers to this issue can include portable-size, new-generation data centres for more efficient operation, or renewables (wind, hydro, solar) as energy sources at these facilities. Cloud service providers are already addressing these issues, and hopefully will achieve significant results in the near future.

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