The Coming of Fuel Cells Powered MacBooks

Will fuel cells be the next big thing for laptop batteries? Apple is looking into this possibility as a patent application reveals.

Apple Insider reports that two Apple patent applications published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office show that the company is interested in fuel cells — the titles of the applications are “Fuel Cell System to Power a Portable Computing Device” and “Fuel Cell System Coupled to a Portable Computing Device.”

Apple Insider notes that the company, “makes a case for using fuel cells to power portable electronic devices, noting that hydrogen and associated fuels could allow such devices to operate ‘for days or even weeks without refueling.’ But the company also notes there are challenges in creating hydrogen fuel cell systems that are portable and cost-effective.”

Not only that, but getting people to refuel their laptops by changing out the fuel cell rather than just plugging into a wall might prove to be a challenge. We might not be ready for fuel cells as consumers for quite awhile, in addition to the technology being years away. Even so, it is an intriguing idea for the use of a renewable alternative energy.

“As a consequence of increased consumer awareness, electronics manufacturers have become very interested in renewable energy sources for their products, and they have been exploring a number of promising renewable energy sources such as hydrogen fuel which is used in hydrogen fuel cells,” both documents state, as Apple Insider notes.

However, if our power grid continues to use more and more renewable energy, such as solar and wind, then powering up by plugging into a wall will be less and less polluting. Making the case for fuel cells instead will be centered on if the laptops can really be made smaller, lighter, and have a battery that lasts longer than any plug-in battery could.

Apple Insider has images of the patent applications if you’d like to check them out.


Google, KRR end 2011 with new investment in solar power

Google Inc. is ending the year with another clean energy investment together with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. by investing in four solar farms to provide enough electricity for about 13,000 homes inCalifornia.

Google’s $94 million is the internet giant’s first in grid-connected photovoltaic solar power investment. This latest investment brings Google’s total clean power investments to more than $915 million, which has been primarily in wind power, solar roofs, and a solar thermal power plant.


The deal is also the first clean energy investment in the Unites States by KKR. The company invested in the solar farms through SunTap Energy RE LLC, its newly formed solar investment unit.

The exact amount provided by KKR was not disclosed but it was drawn from a $95-million pool managed by SunTap, according to the statement.

Three of the power plants will be complete early in 2012, with the fourth coming online later in the year, according to a joint statement from the companies. The projects can generate a total of 88 megawatts for Sacramento County, where they will be built by Recurrent Energy Inc., a unit of Sharp Corp. The facilities will be given premium rates from selling power to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District as part of a feed-in tariff program that began last year.  Depending on the season, length of contract and start of production, the four solar farms could earn up to $10 cents per kilowatt hour under a 20-year power purchase agreement, based on rates as of January. Three of the Sacramento area projects will finish construction by early 2012, with one coming online a little later that year. They are expected to generate 160 million kilowatt-hours during the first year of operation, equivalent to offsetting the electricity consumption of more than 13,000 average U.S. homes.

The investment was made despite Google’s decision to shut down its Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal or RE<C, the company’s in-house research initiative and one of investment units launched back in 2007. Google, however, reassured back in November when RE<C was closed that renewable energy will continue to be part of company’s business priorities, namely on developing ways to source clean power for its data centers.

Google has invested in other forms of solar energy, including $168 million in BrightSource Energy Inc.’s Ivanpah solar thermal power plant currently being built also inCalifornialast April. It also committed $280 million in June to SolarCity Corp. and $75 million for Clean Power Finance Inc. in September to finance solar roof projects for more than 10,000 homeowners in the country. Its investment in SolarCity is its largest in renewable energy to date.

KKR, headquartered inNew York, has two other renewable energy investments – a Spanish solar-energy company T-Solar Global SA and in wind parks Sorgenia S.P.A. is developing inFrance, according to the statement.


All About Smart Meters

What are smart meters?

A smart meter is a new type of electricity or gas meter. The old-fashioned meters in most homes today do nothing more than keep track of total energy consumption on a dial on the meter. By contrast, smart meters can transmit and receive data to and from the electricity company. Among other things, this removes the need for someone to read your meter or for the company to estimate your bill. It also enables more sophisticated billing, with the price of electricity changing minute by minute, according to availability and demand. Smart meters could also be used to limit the amount of power available to each home at times of peak demand.

How are they different to energy monitors?

An energy monitor is a device that helps consumers keep an eye on their current power usage. A small transmitter attaches to the cables coming out of the electricity meter and relays information to a wireless digital display that can be placed in the kitchen, living room or anywhere else. The display shows the home’s total current power consumption along with approximate figures for cost and CO2 emissions. Energy monitors such as the Owl and Wattson are available for use with existing electricity meters. However, it seems likely that once smart meters are rolled out a new generation of wireless monitors will appear, capable of displaying extra information such as the current electricity price and the home’s daily, monthly and annual electricity consumption.

What are the benefits?

As well as avoiding the need for meter readings, smart meters should help contribute towards more efficient – and greener – management of the electricity grid. At present, there are spikes in electricity use at certain times of day, most noticeable in the early evening when people get home from work and switch on lights, cookers, televisions and kettles. During these peaks, the dirtiest power stations are fired up to help meet demand and electricity becomes more expensive to produce. Smart meters should enable power companies to vary the price of electricity in real time. This would encourage consumers to use less power at times of maximum demand, thereby reducing the peaks and cutting emissions. For example, individuals might decide to switch on their dishwashers and washing machines in the morning rather than the evening to help reduce their electricity bills. In addition, by providing clearer information to people about their electricity consumption, smart meters should help encourage green behaviour such as switching off lights when leaving rooms and turning electronic devices off when not in use.

Can they do anything else?

Smart meters are one key part of a wider set of technologies and techniques collectively known as the “smart grid”. Most energy experts and politicians agree we need a smart grid in order to cope with a substantial increase in the proportion of our electricity that comes from intermittent clean energy sources such as solar and wind.

On a smart grid, intermittence is less of a problem because smart meters and other technologies can be used to manage electricity demand and to store power when too much is being generated. For example, a smart meter could be connected to household refrigerator and instructed to temporarily turn it off at times of peak demand. It would be automatically switched back on if the temperature inside the fridge rose too high and risked spoiling the food.

Similarly, smart meters could communicate with electric cars that are parked and fully charged, enabling the cars’ batteries to provide power into the grid when electricity supply is low and demand is high.

When will I get one?

Some countries have already started implementing smart meters. In Italy the majority of homes already have one. A new government plan will see smart meters introduced into all UK homes between 2012 and 2020. Large businesses will get them within five years.

Who will pay?

Utilities are expected to pay, but are likely to pass on at least some of the cost to customers. Some argue this amounts to the energy companies charging consumers for upgrades that will primarily save the companies money, through the end of meter reading.


The Renault-Nissan Alliance, the leader in electric vehicles

The Renault-Nissan Alliance is the world-leader in electric-vehicle technology and the only car group worldwide offering a range of vehicles that consume no gasoline whatsoever.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance plans to sell 1.5 million zero-emission cars by 2016. Nissan has already sold more than 18,000 LEAFs on three continents, making it the most popular EV in the world.

Renault just began selling the Kangoo Z.E. minivan. The Fluence Z.E. family sedan will go on sale shortly followed by the Twizy urban 2-seater and the ZOE compact hatchback next year.

Go Green with Green Insurance

Everyone is looking for ways to “go green”. In 90’s, going green meant recycling paper, glass, and plastic. Today, going green is changing our way of life. There are hundreds of different things that can be done to help our planet. Even corporations are getting involved. Some Holiday companies, for an additional fee, will plant trees in order to offset the emissions of carbon and other toxins caused by planes.

Some Grocery stores give incentives for those who reuse their plastic shopping bags. Some banks are now offering customers what they call “green accounts” that make contributions to various environment charities. It’s no surprise that car insurance are getting involved with going green.

For decades, driving using your vehicle was considered the worst thing you can do to the environment. Things have changed. All over the world, auto makers are releasing assortments of green cars ranging from small hybrid vehicles to cars that run on total electricity.

With green cars comes green insurance. One such insurance provider is The Green Insurance Company. This company promises to offset 100% of car emissions by planting trees. They also will give 5% of their company profits to charity, as well as offer discounts to drivers whose cars give off low emissions. The company follows the longtime philosophy of “reduce, recycle and reuse”. They also recycle the metal from cars that have been written off. This attitude marks the beginning of a new way of insurance companies offering incentives for drivers going green.

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