Google Switches on Solar: Generates 9,000 kW

Google has just switched on it’s gigantic solar project and, in traditional Google fashion, has an excellent web-based application tracking its progress. Anyone familiar with Google’s stats package will recognize the software used here, but it’s really cool to see the actual amount of power being generated by the panels at any given time.

And, of course, we have the obligatory "this would power 41,000 alarm clocks for one year" math going on at the bottom of the page.

Category notably not included? "This would power X number of Googleplexes for 24 hours", as that number is unfortunately still less than one.

Nevertheless…props to Google…keep up the good work.

See Also
Google Follows Yahoo Into Carbon Neutrality
Solar Powered Google
Our Newsletter

Inkjet Printers Lie Steal and Pollute

Turns out you’ve got another reason to go Office Space on your InkJet. It’s something that geeks have suspected for quite some time, printers are set to report that cartridges are out of ink far before they actually are.

EPSON (who turned out to be least evil) commissioned the study to determine how full cartridges were when they reported they were "out of ink." The results…some printers report they are "out of ink" when they’re only half empty. Worse, the firmware will continue to nag you about it and occasionally will not even allow you to print until you replace the cartridge. Kodak came in last place, wasting up to 60% of ink, while Epson faired best, wasting about 20%.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since one can literally by a new printer for the same cost as new ink cartridges. This kind of hyper-disposable attitude is completely the opposite of what EcoGeek stands for, and I’ve got a mind to take my printer out into an empty field right now and introduce it to Mr. Louisville.

But for those of you who really do need printers, here are a few tips:

  • Avoid single cartridge printers, as the cartridges need to be replaced every time a single color runs out
  • Always recycle ink cartridges, all big stores will take them as printer companies will actually pay to get them back
  • Print in black and white as often as possible. No reason to waste expensive color ink 95% of the time
  • Never listen when your printer says it’s out of ink. It’s lying.

Via TreeHugger and Ars Technica

See also
Reusable Plastic Paper
Electronic Paper
EcoGeek Newsletter MapQuest for your Feet

MapQuest is great and all, but what if I want to get to the burning calories instead of gasoline. Well, that’s where comes in. WalkIt is mapping out cities for bicycle and pedestrian commuters so that they can find the fastest, safest and simplest routes walking routes through their city.

For every trip you map, WalkIt will tell you around how many calories you’ll burn, how long the trip will take at different walking speeds, and how many kg of carbon you’ll avoid. The interface is just as simple as mapquest, though their front page could use a bit of cleaning up.

The biggest problem though, is that only three cities have been mapped out so far, all in the UK. But if you’re a citizen of London, Birmingham or Edinburgh, consider yourself served. A representative from WalkIt has assured me that more cities are on the way, but they aren’t likely to start on the Americas any time soon.

See Also
Google Public Transit
Google Hiking Trails

Google Follows Yahoo! Into Carbon Neutrality

Just a couple of months after Yahoo! announced it’s plans to go carbon neutral, Google is laying down it’s cards as well. Google has a bit of a head start, though, as they’ve just switched on their multi-megawatt solar installation and so automatically have less carbon to offset.

On their own, carbon offsets are not capable of creating the kinds
of fundamental changes to our energy infrastructure that will be
necessary to stabilize global greenhouse gas emissions to safe levels, but we believe that offsets can offer real, measurable, and
additional emissions reductions that allow us to take full
responsibility for our footprint today.

Strikingly similar to the language from Yahoo’s announcement really. Google will obviously focus on decreasing emissions through efficiency and renewable energy first. And then they will fund projects that decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

One project Google will fund, for example, is a methane capture facility at Mexican and Brazilian farms. As Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, it’s an easy target for global warming offsets. Google has set it’s neutrality date for early 2008.

Via Reuters

EcoGeek of the Week: Bill Mckibben

Since the publication of "The End of Nature" in 1987, Bill McKibben
has been a premier mind in environmentalism. Bill’s most recent book, Deep Economy,
helped me re-think the world in powerful ways, by asking one simple question,
"What is the relationship between ‘more’ and ‘better.’" Bill came
up with some pretty exciting answers, and they form the basis of what he calls
the Deep Economy.

EcoGeek: What is the
Deep Economy, and why do we need it?

Bill Mckibben: We need an economy
that asks questions other than "how can I make it bigger?" the two
key additional questions: "how can the economy make us more satisfied with
our lives?" and, in an age of ecological peril, "how can the economy
assure some durability for our communities?"

EG: What scares your
pants off?

BM: Well, I wrote the first book
about global warming, way back in 1989, and it was called The End of Nature.
That was scary enough for one lifetime — now i’m hard to rattle.

EG: What roll does the
internet play in the Deep Economy?

BM: Crucial. It allows people
to live in tight, close, more economically self-sufficient communities without
being stifled–there’s always a window open to the wider world. Earlier this
year I helped organize the largest grassroots environmental protest since Earth
Day 1970. But isntead of a march on Washington, we had 1,400 marches across
the country. (see there’s no way we could have organized it
without the net, nor linked it together afterwards to be more than the sum of
its parts.

Continue Reading

Bike Rack Air Pump

What’s a heklucht? The designers at Studio HiMom have combined a bike stand with
an air pump, so that bicycle commuters can be assured of having fully
inflated tires for their commute.

"The stainless steel construction lends to its durability while the
polished steel exterior shines brightly against the dull, grey of city
sidewalks. The Heklucht is a perfect combination of design and
functionality, and although originally conceived only as an art project,
it most certainly has a place in our urban lives!"

This isn’t flashy high-tech; it is something that just makes sense. And
making it easier and more convenient for people to use their bikes is good
design for us all.

via: StumbleUpon

Google Investing $10M in Plug-Ins

Google’s philanthropic arm,, is putting some of it’s gigantic pile of cash behind plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Right now, their initiatives include hacking Toyota Prius and Ford Escape hybrids to be plug-ins. Their Prius plug-ins are getting about 75 mpg, a good boost over the 40 mpg of regular Prius models.

Google plans to fund at least $10 million in PHEV projects and hopes to expand it’s plug-in fleet to at least 100 vehicles. In addition to promoting the idea of PHEVs Google is also working on the technology behind vehicle to grid integration.

Vehicle to Grid power basically works by charging car batteries at night, when there’s tons of extra electricity, and then selling the electricity back to utility companies during the day when prices are high. Not only could this provide a revenue stream to owners of hybrid cars, it would stabilize the country’s energy grid and make it easier for us to adopt renewable energy. Google is working with their utility company PG&E on working out the kinks of vehicle to grid power, and optimizing the process.

Google’s page is promoting all of these initiatives. Recharging the car, recharging the grid, and "recharging the planet." No small goals at Google!

A video from Google is available after the jump

Via MetaEfficient

Quick OLED Review

Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) are versatile, bright,
efficient light sources. They’re basically flat two dimensional lights made by
placing a series of organic thin films between two conductors. When
current is applied, light is emitted. OLEDs
are usually sandwiched between layers of protective clear plastic.

The General ElectricÂ’s Ecomagination department has been developing
since 1999, and in 2003 they demonstrated a 2’x2′ OLED light source.
For a behind-the-scenes look at what is going on at GE check out
this recent blog post
by one the their EcoEngineers involved in OLED development. In the blog, there is a
video that shows OLEDs being bent, spindled and attacked with hole punchers. 

OLEDs can be made very thin and very power efficient. While currently not as efficient as
fluorescent lights, OLEDs have a very high theoretical maximum efficiency. Due to their efficiency OLEDs donÂ’t produce
waste heat and are thus a good source for illuminating things you donÂ’t want to
get hot, like cell phone screens.

The manufacturing process for OLEDs can include printing
dots of different organic compounds on a clear plastic carrier to create a
matrix of pixels that emit different colored light. These systems can be used
in television screens, computer displays, and cell phone screens.

At the Las Vegas CES 2007 Summit Sony showcased 11 inch
(resolution 1,024 x 600) and 27 inch (full HD resolution at 1920 x 1080) OLED
televisions claiming a million-to-one contrast ratio and total thickness of 5
mm. According to news reports, Sony plans to begin releasing TVs this year.

Seven World Trade Center: NYCs First Leed Gold

EcoGeek made a little EcoGoof earlier this month in our piece outlining the top ten green skyscrapers titled Uber-Eco-Towers. In the article, I declared that the Hearst Tower in Midtown Manhattan was the first greenscraper in New York City to earn LEED gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council—and that’s not entirely true. Our readers at kindly pointed out that the building that houses their offices, Seven World Trade Center, was, in fact, the first office building to earn LEED gold in the Big Apple.

The devil was in the details as LEED standards can be a bit tricky to decipher. While the Hearst Tower was the first in NYC to go gold for "core and shell and interiors," WTC 7 beat Hearst to LEED gold by several months in "core and shell" (sans interior) certification. In its core, WTC 7 employs a rainwater-powered cooling system and on its shell, state-of-the-art ultra-clear glass is used to harness as much natural light as possible. While the Hearst Tower has LEED gold interiors as well, WTC 7 allows it’s tenants to do what they will with the interiors, thus making LEED certification impossible.

To prevent confusion in the future, here’s the breakdown of all the different LEED certifications courtesy of EG’s own Philip Proefrock: LEED-NC (new construction), LEED-CS (core and shell), LEED-CI (commercial interiors), LEED-EB (existing buildings), and LEED-Homes is coming out this fall, and LEED-ND (Neighborhood Development) is in pilot phase now and LEED certifications for Schools and for Hospitals are forthcoming

ChallengeX: Chevy’s Efficiency Mod Challenge

A longer version of this article is crossposted at

I had the opportunity last week to visit General Motors’ headquarters in
downtown Detroit for an event with the ChallengeX program. ChallengeX is a
program co-sponsored by GM and the US Department of Energy. Teams from
universities across the US (and one from Canada) were given a stock
Chevrolet Equinox to mod for improved efficiency. "Seventeen
teams have been challenged to re-engineer a GM Equinox, a crossover
sport utility vehicle to minimize energy consumption, emissions, and
greenhouse gases while maintaining or exceeding the vehicle’s utility
and performance."

This is a multi-year program, which has already gone through two years
of evaluations and awards. And, while the initial information I had
about the program was that this was the conclusion of the challenge, I
learned that there is going to be a fourth year to the program, which
will focus on consumer acceptability issues. Afterall, you can fill the back seat with batteries and praise  a car’s efficiency, but soccer moms are never gonna buy one.

The top three programs for this year’s competition were Mississipi State
(1st place), University of Wisconsin (2nd place), and Virginia Tech (3rd
place). The vehicles went through a multi-day testing at GM’s proving
grounds, and were judged on numerous criteria. More information about
the ChallengeX results can be found on GM’s
FYI blog.

I talked for a bit with Dr. Andrew Frank, the faculty adviser, and with
Terrence Williams, the project team leader for the team from University
of California at Davis, who call themselves Team Fate. Of the 17 teams in
ChallengeX, only the team from UC-Davis had a plug-in hybrid vehicle.
(Unfortunately, a broken clutch kept them from completing the
competition, and their vehicle was not one that was available to be
driven.) To help demonstrate their vehicle’s ability to travel without
needing to use it’s internal combustion engine, Team Fate had a
demonstration trailer with a solar panel for charging their vehicle. Like the
Volt, it was designed to be able to travel a reasonable range based on a
charge collected from a plug in source (be it a solar PV array on a
garage roof or just a grid-tied circuit) and avoid the use of the
fueled half of the system altogether.

Several other ChalengeX vehicles were available to be driven (albeit
just a trip around the block at GM’s Renaissance Center headquarters in
Detroit). Most of the teams (12 of the 17 competitors) used biodiesel – a B20 blend – as their fuel. One team which went a bit
farther with their entry, however, was the University of Waterloo’s
vehicle, which was powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, rather than some
form of internal combustion engine. (I had the chance to drive that
vehicle as well, and that will be covered in a forthcoming article.)

Cutting Cooling Costs With…get this…Cold Air

Have you ever thought about how ridiculous it is that we use massive amounts of electricity to cool food in the winter. If it’s colder in your back yard than it is in your refrigerator, then why are you spending money on cooling?

Restaurants, supermarkets and institutions have large scale refrigerators that represent a huge energy demand. During the winter, this energy is pretty much wasted, as ice cold air is usually just a few meters away. So why not couple traditional mechanical heating with natural sources of cool air?

The Freeaire system does exactly that. Not only does it provide increased control for the cooling equipment and systems, it uses
cold outdoor air to refrigerate rather than running the mechanical system. Cost comparison curves show that payback on the
system can be in less than 2 years for large systems.

It’s not for home use…yet. But  Wal-Mart could cut it’s cooling bills in half in northern climates. Server farms could similarly benefit from this kind of natural cooling. My money’s on Canada for Google’s next big facility. Restaurants, box-stores and server farms are all places that could, should and will be implementing this technology…and soon.

via: The
Sietch Blog

Volvo R-Line Sport Package For C30, S40 & V50 Models?

While Volvo decided a couple of months ago to can the “R” performance band due to sluggish sales in both Europe and the US, it is being reported that the Swedish carmaker is thinking of reviving the “R” brand through a sport package dubbed “R-Line”. Think of it as something similar to Audi’s S-Line and BMW’s M-Sport packages with visual and chassis enchantments. The unconfirmed reports are accompanied by a set of pictures featuring an S40 with a subtle looking bodykit, different interior trim and “R-Line” badging in-and-out. –More pictures after the jump

Via: , Source: