Buy One Give One Solar Flashlights

Using photovoltaics to provide electricity for lighting is a popular solution for saving impoverished populations from dealing with the dangers and expense of oil lamps, candles and other short-term light sources. However, few companies have been looking to market to US consumers at the same time they provide to those in need, but the BoGo Light hopes to change that. The BoGo Light is a rugged outdoor light using a solar panel, 6 LEDs and NiCad or NiMH AA batteries in an ABS plastic shell.

While physically ordinary, what makes the lights unique is that BoGo stands for Buy One Give One meaning that for each light purchased, another one is donated to a charity of the buyer’s choosing. Already, the lights have been distributed worldwide including "500 lights in nine United Nations High Commission for Refugee Camps worldwide – Chad, Dufar, Kenya, Pakistan, Uganda, Colombia, Algeria, Zambia and Ethiopia."

The lights are stated to work for about 20 years with batteries lasting about 750-1000 cycles. At $25 plus shipping, the light is very reasonably priced, especially considering that actually costs them 2 lights plus shipping to an international destination. You can find them at


Solar Power at Half the Cost

Silicon is pretty expensive these days, and traditional solar panels need a lot of it to convert light to energy. But two of the great opportunities for expansion in solar is using less silicon, by concentrating light on smaller panels, and increasing efficiency by tilting panels to follow the sun. These roof-mounted units created by Soliant Energy (Soliant Green Energy?) do both of those things, with no external power equipment necessary.

The innovation here is called the ‘heliotube.’ It’s a tube of glass that concentrates the sun’s rays onto a very thin strip of silicon solar panels at the base of the tube. The tube is then connected to a frame in blocks, and the frame uses the power coming off the panel to tilt the tubes to track the sun. These panels use 88% less photovoltaic material, but are almost as efficient per square foot as traditional solar panels.

While it would be more efficient if the panels could tile vertically as well as horizontally (and thus track the exact path of the sun) the simple design and ease of installation will bring the intial costs of these panels way down. Right now, this initial cost is basically the barrier that keeps solar power from juicing high-sunlight areas of the world.

Unfortunately this design has a few flaws. Currently, the troughs placement causes them to occasionally shade each other, preventing them from capturing the maximum amount of sunlight. However, the next revision hopes to correct the former problem by breaking up the rows into sections so that they can follow the sun in every direction.

They estimate an eventual improvement of energy production by 300% from their current design. The panels are scheduled to ship this year, with the new model having an estimated 2010 completion date.

Via TechnologyReview

The Age of Windustry

Day one of the Windpower 2007 conference has come to an end, and having just
rubbed elbows with something like 6,000 attendees, 400-plus exhibitors and
national legislators and policymakers from around the country, I thought I’d
try to make sense of it all. The confab
was put on by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and heavily
attended by many of folk who belong to it: wind energy producers,
manufacturers who produce things like wind turbines, poles, and transmission
lines and wind outreach and education organizations. The conference features
tons of panels, discussions and presentations, but much of the talk at this
year’s Windpower focused on just a few issues: 

  • A lot of people -­ and not just wind industry representatives, either ­-
    believe that wind energy is and will remain an increasingly crucial part of
    our national renewable energy portfolio. No one had anything particularly
    negative to say about nuclear or other non-c02-emitting power generation
    technologies, but all agreed that of those other options, none were as ready
    as wind power was to step up to the plate and work. (It takes
    years and years to bring a nuclear power plant online, for instance, and not
    nearly as long to build and permit wind turbines). The wind industry feels
    that its golden moment is now.
  • The AWEA has set a really tough goal for itself and for the wind industry:
    to produce 20% of the U.S.’ power by the year 2020. As good as that sounds,
    no one really knows how it’s going to be accomplished. Panelist Bob
    Lukefahr, of BP¹s alternative fuels division, stressed the challenges: It
    will require "technology we haven’t invented yet," he said, and entails "political and economic complexity this business has never faced before."
    For starters, they’re going to have to figure out how to deliver
    all that energy; even if we had the turbines to do it right now, it would
    cost at least $60 billion to build the transmission lines to get that power
    onto the country’s grid, according to AWEA President Randall Swisher.
  • The future of the wind industry depends on the White House, and if the
    next few presidents we have aren’t wind-friendly, wind will stay small for
    the long haul.

The good news is, there are plenty of states out there interested in having
the wind industry set up shop in their regions. At Monday’s confab alone,
the mayor of Los Angeles and the governors of Montana and Iowa made nice to
the assembled windustryites, and at least one congressman (D.C.’s own Jerry
McNerney) and a senator (Tom Daschle) lent their support to the cause as a
whole. In short, the industry is booming, consumer interest in renewable
energy has never been higher, and the future ­ depending in part on what
happens in the 2008 election ­ looks bright.

Photsynth Makes Print Obsolete

Photosynth is an amazing photo and text software environment that will change the way you look at photos forever.

Blaise Aguera y Arcas
presents a demo of Photosynth at the TED (Technology Entertainment Design) conference. He shows how his new software links photos together spatially and hints at the value Photosynth adds to your photo collection. The demo  shows Photosynth creating amazing multidimensional spaces with zoom and navigation features just by scanning photos from Flickr. It creates a spatial map and places all photos of an object (such as Notre Dame, Paris) into a collage that is easy and intuitive to navigate.

While the spatial 3-D image collage is amazing, the information created when everyoneÂ’s photo tags are linked is even more amazing. Photosynth creates a dense information swarm around the objects it links together.

Photosynth is the brainchild of Blaise Aguera y Arcas, he also created Seadragon (acquired by Microsoft in 2006), the visualization technology that gives Photosynth its amazingly smooth digital rendering and zoom capabilities.

Seadragon and Photosynth create an interface that will make working with text and images on a screen preferable to working with paper. With the exception of reading at the beach, I canÂ’t see any advantage for paper. 

the Trucking Industry Events


The following are events taking place in the field of trucking, scroll
down the page to locate an event for your month of interest. If you
would like to submit your event please contact us at or call 866-383-7956. Keep in mind your event must
be trucking related or benefit the truck driver or owner operator.

3 – 5 TMCA Annual Conference & Expo
Sponsored by The Transportation Marketing & Communications Association
Renaissance Vinoy Resort, St Petersburg, FL

3 – 6 HDDC’s 23rd Annual Business Conference
Sponsored by Heavy Duty Distributor Council
Hilton Suites Toronto, Markham Conference Centre & Spa, Toronto,
Contact: 519-631-9424

7 – 9 The Truck Show Las Vegas
Sponsored by The Truck Show
Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, NV

Carbonation and Global Warming?

Recently Dave Burdick compared renewable energy to diet soda: You get all the fun without any of the guilt. Well, a randomly-associating commenter suddenly wondered about the effects of soda CO2 off-gassing on global warming.

Far be it from me to make light of a serious issue like global warming, but I really can’t help but figure out the answer for myself.

So I found some quick (and occasionally disturbing) data:

  • There’s an average of 6 grams of CO2 in 1 liter of soda.
  • The majority of CO2 used in the soft drink industry is a byproduct of, get this, petroleum refineries.
  • There are 300 million people in America.
  • And freakiest of all, the average American drinks 56 gallons of soda per year.

First of all, HOLY CRAP! Fifty Six Gallons Per Year! I’ve got a lot of catching up to do…

Anyhow…now for the math:
300 million people x 56 gallons per person x 3.78 gallons per liter x 6 grams of CO2 per liter soda / 1000 g per kg x 1 ton in 978 kg= 389,570 tons of CO2 emitted by soft drinks yearly in America alone.

Now, since most of this CO2 was going to be emitted from petroleum refineries anyway, it’s not all that big a deal. But it’s pretty amazing that we, in effect, manage to sequester almost 400,000 tons of CO2 (the amount emitted by a town of around 45,000 people) in soda pop every year.

Now, if we could just keep buying them, and stop opening them.

Making Solar Popular: China’s Sun City

Rizhao is not the most well known city in China, but it is rising in fame as a promising example of citywide solar energy use. With a name that means "City of Sunshine," they have sure lived up to it – 99% of central district houses are using solar water heaters, as well as more than 30% of suburban and village houses in the surrounding area. This amounts to 500,000 square meters of solar water heaters, doing the work of half a megawatt of electricity. The trend extends to 6,000 houses using solar cooking facilities and 60,000 greenhouses heated using solar heat collectors. In addition, a majority of city lights and traffic signals use photovoltaics.

This is not some futuristic city on the rise; Rizhao is just "a small, ordinary Chinese city with per capita incomes even lower than in most other cities in the region." Credit for solar energy’s popularity goes to the government, which has undertaken a tremendous campaign for the use of these technologies. Instead of subsidizing the use of solar heaters (which they could not afford in any case), they invested in research and development to lower the cost of the appliances, putting them at price parity with their electric counterparts. At the cheaper price, the use of solar water heaters becomes a no-brainer, saving the average household $120 a year. In addition, the city now mandates solar heating installations be incorporated into all new buildings.

Lab-Grown Meat for Ethical Carnivores

My goodness we live in a strange world. Some scientists in the Netherlands are currently working on growing meat in laboratories with the eventual aim of eliminating livestock. Even though I find this completely gross, and I can’t imagine how they could effectively market such a product, it might actually be a good idea.

Cows and pigs are one of the biggest contributors to global warming because methane is a much stronger greenhouse gas than CO2. Chickens alone produce about eight billion pounds of waste per year.

And then there’s the whole "Omnivore’s Dilemma." Should we choose to kill and eat other animals if we have a choice? Well, if these scientists have their way we’ll be able to have our pork as well as our pig, and everyone will be happy. Oh…except the livestock industry.

Via TreeHugger and Reuters

Efficiency Matters Most

Diet soda is so lame. If you think soda is bad for you, you ought to just be cutting back on the soda.

Renewable energy is really exciting to talk about because it’s like the diet soda of energy — we can still drink all the goop we want, but it hurts us just a little less. Well, the American Solar Energy Society’s report this year tells us we ought to be drinking a lot less goop if we’re serious about saving ourselves from CERTAIN DOOM.

OK, maybe those aren’t their exact words. But the ASES says that energy efficiency is more important than all other kinds of renewable energy put together. Check out the report and some graphics here. Of particular interest is this projection of where our energy savings should come from if we want to hit a 60% — or 80% — reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.

The report states that using less electricity through smart design, awareness, etc. could reduce carbon emissions by up to  57 percent by 2030. We say, let’s get started. Check out our efficiency category to see what’s up there.

Via TreeHugger.

Thomas Edison, 1931: "I’d Put My Money on Solar"

OK, I’m about to cry…

In 1931, not long before he died, the [Edison] told his friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone: “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”


That, from the New York Times Magazine, is the conclusion of an excellent article on the Clean Green Thinking of America’s most famous inventor, Thomas Edison. You can read the whole article here, but the gist is that Edison worked on various green initiatives, including electric cars, wind turbines, and an off-the-grid home in New Jersey that the New York Times then called "utterly and for all time independent of the nearness or farness of the big electric companies."

From this, I learn two things. First, apparently "farness" used to be a word. Second, our reliance on cheap fossil fuels has created a kind of stagnation in the energy industry that is pretty depressing. It’s just as Edison feared, we’ve had to wait until oil and coal are running out to tackle the abundant renewable energy created by our natural environment. He wasn’t an environmentalist, so don’t let the New York Times fool you there, but he knew a good idea when he saw one. And now, finally, we’re moving forward once again.