Tornadoes tear through northern Oklahoma

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Supercell storms plowed across northern Oklahoma state Saturday spawning several tornadoes that crushed structures and sent debris flying miles away, US media reported. Continue reading Tornadoes tear through northern Oklahoma

Goodbye Sweaty Sheets: Hello Japanese Bed Cooler

I don’t care how many fans I point directly at my bed during the summer, the space between my butt and the mattress always reaches temperatures that make comfortable sleep entirely impossible. So, either I get a lame, inefficient AC window unit. Or I sweat my way through the brief, though surprisingly hot, Montana summers.

So far I’ve elected for option two, but now, thanks to some clever folks in Japan, I can cool the two inches between my butt and the mattress (the two inches that really matter) without having to pay to cool the entire room around me.

Lord this is an amazing idea. I’m about ready to fly my sweaty butt to Japan to get one right now. This extremely simple invention (by the people who brought you the USB Powered fan shirt) simply uses two ultra-quiet fans at the base of a mattress pad to pull cool air from above the head under your hot body. The device is more efficient even than regular fans. Even if used 8 hours a day for 30 days straight, it will only consume about 25 cents of electricity.

Via TreeHugger

Novel Barrel Turbine Wins $34,000 Grant

Graeme Attey, already a little bit famous as the inventor of a two-wheeled, wind-powered "dirt surfer," has just taken his inventing skills to a new (and more useful) level. This roof-top wind turbine is small, cheap, quiet and sits at the peak of the roof-line in order to capture wind at it’s maximum speed.

Mr. Attey has been awarded a AU$34,000 grant from the government of Australia to develop the technology and make it suitable for use across windy Western Australia. Another $28,000 was awarded to a scientist to determine the ideal placements for such small-scale residential turbines.

At only AU$700 a piece, these turbines are definitely the cheapest option we’ve seen in small wind. And though they don’t have an enormous generating capacity, they are designed to be used in series. So, an average household could install as many as six of these turbines on their roof, while selling all of their excess electricity back to the electric company.

The only issue, of course, is whether home-owners will be willing to add these clunky barrel turbines to their roof. But if Western Australia really wants to reduce it’s greenhouse emissions by 60% in 40 years, they’re going to have to make compromises. Besides its somewhat cumbersome appearance, these turbines look to me like a very promising advancement in suburban energy generation.

Video After the Jump.

Via Metaefficient

See Also:
Big Ideas in Small Wind
Shape-Shifting Personal Wind Turbine

Floating Off-Shore Wind Rig Based on Oil Rig Technology

What are the three biggest problems with wind power? Anybody, anybody, Bueller?

1. Bird Kill, 2. NIMBYism and 3 Dead bugs gumming up the works. Now, I’m not saying that these are always legitimate concerns, but migration corridors should be avoided and some people just really don’t like the way wind turbines look. These are real problems, so we’ve got to find real solutions.

How about we put wind turbines in a place that is literally no one’s back yard, there are no bugs, and where birds only go to die. Namely, 50-100 miles off-shore. The big problem, of course, is that there’s no way to anchor wind turbines into the sea-floor if the sea-floor is 300 meters down (as it is when you get that far off shore.)

Why is why Norsk Hydro has been working on a prototype floating off-shore wind rig called the Hywind. Norsk Hydro’s off-shore wind expertise comes directly from their experience with off-shore oil rigs. And now that off-shore oil is less interesting to Norway, Norsk Hydro happily developing this awesome new technology.

A pilot project with three 3 MW turbines will be installed before the beginning of 2008. But future plans call for larger farms with hundreds of 5 MW turbines producing as much as 4 terrawatt hours per year, or roughly enough to power 200,000 households.

More pics after the jump.

Via Inhabitat and Norsk Hydro

See Also:
World’s Largest Offshore Wind Project
The AeroGenerator

Fat Spaniel Monitors Your Solar

Once you have your solar photovoltaic panels in place on your rooftop,
how do you know how well they are performing? Maybe you’re lucky and
you have net metering where you are, so you can sort of guess at it
because your electrical bills are lower than they were. But it would be
useful if you could get more information so you knew how much you were
producing and how much you were using.

is an amusingly named company (with an overweight corporate
mascot) which offers monitoring services
for building power systems
, particularly PV. They "provide hosted
data monitoring, management and control services that OEMs, installers,
and distributed utilities can use to optimize performance and ensure
investment returns for all types of renewable energy systems." And, as
a third party, they can help verify system performance to an owner,
rather than relying on the manufacturer’s claims about what the system
will do.

Fat Spaniel monitoring shows both immediate and historical data from a
power system. Owners, users, and the merely curious can see how much
power a building is using, and how much of that is coming from a
renewable system. The monitoring system shows both building demand as
well as energy output by the generating system.

Power monitoring and display information can be beneficial in green
building where it can help gain an additional point toward LEED
certification. And state grants to encourage the installation of
renewable power systems also sometimes require a monitoring and display
component as a precondition for awarding the grant.

link: Fat Spaniel

Advanced Plasma Lamps made from Aluminum Foil?

When Gary Eden needed some raw materials for his new ultra-efficient, ultra-light, millimeter-thin plasma lamp, he went to the grocery store. The lamp is mostly aluminum foil.

Granted the lamp is not 100% aluminum, but part of the project was to try and make it as cheap and simple to create as possible, hence the run to the grocery store.

The aluminum "microcavity plasma lamp" is surprisingly simple to create. By bathing the foil in an acid, hundreds of thousands of micro-cavities (little holes) are created and a small amount of the aluminum is converted to dielectric aluminum oxide (sapphire.) Those holes are filled with a tiny amount of fluorescent gas and the cavities are all wired together. Then the whole package is sandwiched between thin sheets of glass coated with phosphor on the inside and the lamp is complete.

Imagine a flat panel lamp that would hang on the wall, or be inset in the ceiling. The lamps produce about 15 lumens per watt, significantly more efficient than incandescents, but only about half as efficient as current fluorescent bulbs. But the team at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana say they expect efficiencies of about 30 lumens per watt shortly (comparable to CFLs.)


See Also
Curly Lights
1000 Lumen LED
CFLs Could Cut Carbon by 10%

Small is Beautiful: Houses

Our friends over at Inhabitat
took the opposite tack from our recent piece about the top 10 green skyscrapers
and produced an article about the Top 5
Tiny Prefab Houses

These include such standouts as the Microcompact Home (pictured) and the
Tiny Tumbleweed House. In addition to all the other wonderful features
they offer, these are especially green because of their small size.
Fewer materials used and less space to heat and cool means a smaller ecological footprint.

The Loftcube and the Weehouse (and probably the Microcompact Home, as
well) are transportable, and suitable for installation on the roof of an
existing building (think urban loft, not an addition on your neighbor’s
50’s ranch). (For extra geekiness points, they would probably be
installed by cargo helicopter.) The Sustain Mini Home hosts a number of
green features including no vinyl, no formaldehyde, natural ventilation,
and FSC lumber, among others.

None of these is likely to be suitable for a family with children, but
for one or two people, these may offer all the living space that they
really need in a dynamic and attractive form.

Via: Inhabitat

Level 38 Eco-Tricycle of Maiming

It’s not gonna get you anywhere very fast, but if you’re lucky, it could get you out of some tight scrapes in the post-apocalyptic Australian Outback.  In any case this home-made, wind-powered tricycle is ridiculously cool, I’m just not sure why.

It’s not a practical design or anything, but I just feel like it’s necessary to congratulate people when they wade this far into the sea of peculiarity. This particular device was created by  Damon Vander Lind  and it’s come in ranked quite high at the Popular Mechanics DIY fair. Apparently he got the idea while working on a home-made wind turbine (admittedly a more practical persuit) and the entire rig cost him about $500 (and three weeks) to build.
Via Popular Mechanics
(Image and video credit: Popular Mechanics)

Tires to Diesel

Plastic is made from oil, unfortunately, it’s hard to make oil from plastic. Or, at least, it used to be. Global Resources Corporation has created a special kind of microwave that zaps plastic at very specific wavelengths in order to release the hydrocarbons.

As an example, put a tire into the GRC Hawk-10, and the machine slowly dribbles out diesel oil. What’s left inside the microwave is pure carbon black (which can be sold to tire companies for, y’know, making new tires) and the steel that gives the tires strength.

Put a bundle of insulated wires in, you get oil, and copper (with some dyes and carbon left over.) The process works on anything made of petroleum products, including hard plastic, rubber, foam rubber, even your old polyester pants. The microwave units range in size from a the size of a regular microwave oven to the size of a cement mixer.

Running 9.1 kilograms of ground-up tires through the Hawk-10 produces 4.54 liters of diesel oil, 1.42 cubic meters of combustible gas, 1 kg of steel and 3.40 kg of carbon black.

Via NewScientist

Cardboard Ferrari Gets Green

Ferrari is showing off it’s green with a new concept, high performance vehicle, the Ferrari FFX Millechili. Yes, it’s a hybrid, and uses it’s electric drive train not just to boost power but also to increase efficiency. But we’ve seen hybrids. What’s really exciting about the FFX is that its made of lightweight materials including carbon fiber, plastic and cardboard.

Eh? Cardboard?! Well, apparently so. I’m not sure if this is just to make the prototype easier to build, or of Ferrari really is considering its use in vehicles, but, in any case, using light weight materials to increase efficiency is extremely necessary.

Additionally, the FFX incorporates an advanced aerodynamic undercarriage system that uses jets of air to keep whirlpools of drag from forming beneath the car.

Via Channel 4 and Crave

See Also:
-200 MPG Hybrid Velozzi
The Tesla Roadster

Upgrade Your Rack to a Tube Top

Many Prius and Insight owners feel the need to own a second vehicle
for towing, hauling and other occasional mass-moving tasks. Whether
it’s taking the kayak out on the weekends or just bringing home a
Christmas tree once a year, it seems like there’ always an excuse to
keep that gas guzzler in the garage. No more excuses! With the HandiRack (For customers outside the UK, you can buy one here)
you can transform your gas sipper into a haulin’, guzzlin’, aerodynamic
brick when you need to, and change back to the sleek lines of your
car’s OEM look when you’re done. Going "EE-ah-aw-oh-oo!" and singing
"More than meets the eye…" is optional. (don’t get it?)

HandiRack keeps luggage off the roof with a pair of inflatable double
tubes, held in place by connecting the straps inside and closing your
doors or windows on the flaps. They deflate and roll up to "the size of
your toaster" so you can keep them in the trunk with the included air
pump, and be ready to go at a moment’s notice. The MPG-robbing ugliness
of a permanent luggage rack can now be permanently banished… along
with all evil Decepticons.

via AutoBlogGreen

2007 Green Chemistry Awards

Time to give credit where credit is due: the 2007 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards
are in, recognizing some very hard working EcoGeeks who are doing their
part to make our world a better place. Winners this year have
discovered a nanotechnology-based catalyst capable of producing
hydrogen peroxide from renewable feedstocks, a formaldehyde-free
adhesive for making wood composites, a process for synthesizing an
ingredient for polyurethane foam (used in bedding and furniture)
without petroleum oil, a green technique for prepping donor tissue for
transplant, and a new class of chemical reactions using hydrogen and
metal catalysts which minimize waste in industrial applications.

"The EPA estimates that over the past 12 years, the winners’ work has led to the elimination of over 940 million pounds of hazardous chemicals and solvents, [the use of] over 600 million gallons of water and more than 340 million pounds of carbon dioxide.

Kudos to Professors Michael Krische and Kaichang Li, and the
innovative chemists at NovaSterilis, Columbia Forest Products, Hercules
Inc., Headwaters Technology Innovation, and Cargill Inc.

via GreenBiz News

See also:
Green One Pot Chemistry