A Trio Of Smart Cities: How Technology Makes Them More Efficient

A smart city is one that is currently testing or regularly using information, communications and technology (ICT) solutions in at least three areas, states IHS. These can include areas like transportation, safety, energy and the physical infrastructure of the city. It is estimated that the number of smart cities will rise dramatically over the next decade with projects in the U.S. and Europe embracing these energy-efficient solutions.

Currently, there are some cities in the United States that have adopted smarter and more efficient technological systems. For example, consider the following trio:

New York City

The Big Apple has been working towards a smart city mindset for some time. For example, they have already implemented a program called City 24/7, which is an interactive platform that combines data from government programs, residents and businesses to offer information to people at all hours of the day, notes Cisco. The City 24/7 smart screens combine touch, voice and audio commands to let people know about important information and services in the immediate area. In addition, people can access the smart screens through Wi-Fi on their own mobile devices. So, if you are visiting New York City and are trying to figure out where you should go for dinner, you can access reviews of local bars and restaurants that are in your immediate area as well as get discounts on meals right on your smartphone.

Another project that is helping make New York a smart city is Hudson Yards, located in Manhattan. The massive, 28-acre residential and commercial project will feature amazing and innovative systems like pneumatic tubes that are installed underground and will take garbage out of the area. In addition, Hudson Yards will feature technology that will allow it to keep tabs on air quality and energy consumption.

San Francisco

The leaders and citizens of San Francisco have been working hard for years to make the city as smart as possible, Freshome notes. For example, the city currently gets over 40 percent of its power from renewable energy sources, and there are a whopping 110 public charging stations for electric vehicles—the highest number in the country. In addition, San Francisco is working hard to make its public transportation system as user-friendly and accessible as possible. There are now more trains and buses than ever, and apps available through the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency offer real-time updates about commutes and other related information. The city also offers its citizens an impressive number of free Wi-Fi spots; for example, on Market Street in downtown, there are 3 miles straight of Wi-Fi hotspots.

Boston

Like San Francisco, Boston has been trying to use technology to boost the quality of life for its residents and visitors. For example, the city features Soofas, which are benches that use solar power to keep tabs on air quality and noise levels as well as to charge mobile devices and other items. Additionally, the Boston Department of Innovation and Technology has launched five apps that help residents do anything from finding parking to helping parents keep tabs on their child’s school bus. Boston also posts maps that identify some of the city’s “Wicked Free” Wi-Fi locations.

Change The Little Things For A Greener Planet

Nearly everyday there are stories out there about greenhouse gases, carbon emissions and environmental challenges. The issue most of us face is how to combat these startling statistics and help create a better future.

Do the Little Things

There are little things we can all do to make our homes and lives more energy efficient including:

  • Unplugging appliances when you leave a room.
  • Making sure you turn everything off when you are out of the house.
  • Putting appliances on one power strip so it is easier and more effective to turn off the power strip rather than unplugging each individual item.
  • Turning off appliances completely because standby mode wastes energy.
  • Going on energy saving plans through your power provider to save yourself money and the planet.
  • Trading out all of your light bulbs for energy efficient CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs).
  • Keeping your refrigerator cold and making sure the seals are current to prevent energy loss.

Update Your Heating and Cooling

Did you know that nearly half of the energy spent in your home goes towards heating and cooling costs? ENERGY STAR suggests keeping your HVAC units clean and updated. Changing your air filters regularly also will make a difference in the air flowing through your home and how your system runs. Additionally, you should get your HVAC system tuned up to ensure things are running smoothly once a year.

Upgrade Your Windows

Another topic to consider is the type of windows you have installed in your home.You can install energy efficient screens and windows to help maintain the temperature in your home. If you don’t want to buy new windows, Energy.gov suggests caulking or weatherstripping around the frames to prevent leaking caused by rain or other moisture as well as the escape of heating and air conditioning. If you are interested in energy efficient windows, do your research. There are many types to choose from including awning, casement, hopper and sliding. If you aren’t sure what works best for your home, contact a professional that can help you select the right type for your needs as well as help you with the installation process.

Consider Window Accessories

Installing awnings outside of your windows can help keep your house cool and create a nice shaded area in your yard. Awnings don’t have to be just practical either, but can serve as a design opportunity.

Similarly, window treatments offer energy efficiency and are cheaper than buying and installing new windows. Ask yourself: What window treatments am I using in my home? Is the drapery energy efficient? If the answer is no, you can make the switch with ease. There is such a wide variety of energy efficient blinds and drapery for the home. Try implementing solar shades, roman shades, drapes, blinds or vertical systems. Remember, saving energy can be beautiful. Create a comfortable, wonderfully designed home while doing your part to keep the planet clean.

Don’t make saving energy a daunting task. Try these small tips to help make the world a better place.

Infrastructure Upgrades Mean Texas No Longer Wasting Wind Power

According to a report by the Energy Information Administration, curtailments of wind generated electricity in Texas have dropped steadily and substantially since 2011 thanks mostly to the state’s completion of 3,500 miles of transmission lines as part of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones program.  A curtailment refers to an event where a power plant is asked to slow or stop feeding electricity to the grid.  This happens when the supply of electricity greatly outweighs the current demand for electricity.  When this happens electricity production has to be reduced (curtailed) in order to keep an oversupply of power from causing a disruption of the power grid.

Because wholesale electricity prices in Texas are allowed to fluctuate based on real-time market demand, prices for wind generated electricity have in the past sometimes gone negative.  This creates the odd circumstance where wind power producers actually pay market participants to accept their electricity.  This is only really possible in the world of wind power because federal production credits pay wind producers for every kilowatt of power they produce and sell to the grid; even if they are selling the power for a negative price.  Instances of negative pricing have also dropped substantially since the CREZ project was completed.

Texas experienced a boom in wind capacity from 2006-2009 resulting in the production of over 7,000 megawatts of wind capacity.  Since most of these wind turbines were built in West Texas and most of the state’s population is in the eastern part of the state, Texas experienced what is known as transmission congestion.  There weren’t enough large power lines and transmission equipment to get the power from the western part of the state to where it was needed in places like Dallas / Fort Worth, Waco, and Austin.

In an effort to address this imbalance between the available supply in the west and the demand in the east, the Texas Public Utility Commission in 2008 created a plan which established 5 zones where there was a lot of wind power in place or the potential for a lot of wind power.  These were called Competitive Renewable Energy Zones.  They then authorized a large number of projects to build massive new power lines to carry this electricity to the state’s businesses and homes.

The projects completed in 2013 with a total cost of around $7 billion.  Now that the Texas grid has the capacity to effectively move West Texas wind power across the state, curtailments of wind power have been substantially reduced, and occurrences of negative pricing have all but disappeared.  For 2013 wind generation in Texas was up 13%.

 

World’s Largest Carbon Capture Facility To Be Built Near Houston

The world’s largest carbon capture facility is coming to Texas.  The US Department of Energy has announced that work will soon begin a project to capture up to 90% of the carbon emissions from the W.A, Parish Generating Station; a coal-fired power plant southwest of Houston Texas.   Once captured, the CO2 will be pumped underground at the West Ranch oil field.

Pumping the CO2 underground will serve two purposes.  By injecting CO2 into pockets of hard to extract oil, the oil is liberated in a way that makes it easier to extract.  The process also results in the CO2 being sequestered underground rather than being released into the atmosphere.

The CO2 will be captured by processing the power plant’s exhaust gas through a solution of amines.  The amines will bind with the Co2 allowing it to be separated from the sulfates.  Later the amine solution will be heated; a process which releases the CO2.  The amine is recycled while the CO2 is pressurized and piped to the oil field where it will be used to help extract the hard to reach oil.

The West Ranch oil field, which has been in operation for over 75 years, has seen its production rates fall through conventional production techniques.  The carbon dioxide will reduce the oil’s viscosity and force it out of tight spots where it can be more easily extracted.   The oil will them be processed to remove any CO2 that has become mixed with the oil.  The CO2 can then be re-injected into the ground.

The size of the project was scaled up from original plans and will now entail capturing the CO2 from 240 MW of electricity production, making it the largest such operation in the world.   The DOE will be providing financial assistance for the project, whose principals include a subsidiary of NRG Energy.  NRG Energy is the parent company of Reliant Energy, a Texas electricity provider.

Although coal has long been the predominate source of electricity generation in the U.S., it has seen its market share slide in recent years as the abundance  of cheap natural gas has created a cheaper and cleaner alternative.   In Texas, the natural gas boom has helped electricity rates fall substantially since their highs in 2008.

See Also:  U.S. / Texas Oil Reserves At Highest Levels In Decades
See Also: Largest Federal Wind Farm To Be Built In Texas
See Also:  Reliant Energy Rates in Houston

 

Increased Reports Of Scammers Posing As Your Electricity Provider

**ALERT**  THERE HAS RECENTLY BEEN A HUGE JUMP IN THE NUMBER OF REPORTS OF SCAMMERS POSING AS YOUR ELECTRICITY PROVIDER CALLING TO GET YOUR CREDIT/DEBIT CARD INFORMATION.

The scam artists are pretending to be from your electric company, and are threatening to disconnect your electricity if you do not pay your bill immediately over the phone.

Many of these scammers even have the ability to fool your phone’s Caller ID, so that the electricity provider’s name shows up on the phone’s screen.

The thieves are targeting residential and commercial electricity users across the country, but seem to be focusing on the states that are currently experiencing elevated temperatures.

The best action to take is to disconnect the call, then call your energy provider using the phone number printed on a recently electric bill and inform them of the scam attempt.

 

Midland To Get Biomass Electricity Facility

If all goes according to plan, the Midland Odessa area could be home to a state of the art facility designed to turn waste into electricity by early next year.  This comes from a recent announcement by Cirque Energy Inc., one of a number of companies that will be working together to build and deploy a 2.5 MW biomass gasification power plant.  This would provide enough electricity to power roughly 2,500 Texas homes.

The project will be making use of a deployable gasification unit (DGU) developed by a partnership between Cirque Energy and Northrop Grumman.  The technology is designed to turn solid waste into fuel that can be burned to generate electricity.  This fuel, known as syngas, could be used in place of more traditional fossil fuels such as diesel or natural gas to generate electricity.

The benefit of such an approach is that it creates a new use for waste that would otherwise simply go in to landfills.  A wide range of waste products can be used in this process including; wood waste, animal waste, landscaping waste, paper, cardboard, food waste, and even plastics.

The concept of converting waste into electricity is not new.  But earlier generations of the technology have proven to be inefficient and costly for certain types of waste.   An even larger problem has been the amount of air pollution generated from the process of burning waste for electricity.  The company believes that their version of the DGU which uses low temperature starved air gasification technology could be the key to wide-scale commercial deployment of biomass to energy technology.

The Texas electricity market is conducive to such innovation because it is deregulated and open to competition. The electricity generated by the facility can be sold to the wholesale electricity market.   Under the structure of the Texas marketplace, retail electric providers purchase this power and sell it to end users including residential and commercial electricity users.

See Also: Microsoft Makes Large Texas Wind Power Purchase
See Also: Texas Clean Energy Coalition Report Provides Incentive For Renewable Energy

Lower Your Summer Electricity Bill By Sealing The Airy Leaks In Your Home

Surviving the rising temperatures in Texas is a struggle in itself. But paying for rising electricity prices may be a tougher battle than avoiding the summer scorchers. According to Forbes, Dallas and Houston are the top two cities when it comes to heftiest power bills. The blistering summer heat is the top perpetrator when it comes to an increase of electricity usage as residents crank up the AC to cool off. By sealing the air leaks throughout your home, you will save substantial funds and make a positive impact on the environment.

Super Mario Those Air Leaks

Air conditioners consume the most energy and are used extensively during the summer in Texas. Sealing those A/C leaks is the best way to reduce your bill. If you are on a budget you can save up to 30 percent on your energy bill by sealing those leaks. Energy.gov provides a detailed guide for a do-it-yourself home energy audit which involves identifying and sealing leaks along with checking insulation.

Seek Out Those Leaks

Do a quick walk through of your home to seek out areas where potential leaks may be occurring. Windows and doors are where leaks are most prevalent, but don’t forget to check out these often overlooked leaks:

· Electrical outlets and switches – Homeowners are often surprised by this, but electrical switches and outlets are major culprits when it comes to air leakage. Wires run from unsealed holes outside your home to a junction box that eventually leads to the outlets in your home. Prevent this type of leakage by buying an airtight junction box or replacing a decaying unit. These boxes can be purchased at any home improvement store, prices vary greatly so consider buying the upscale model since you may earn the money back with energy savings.

· Air Conditioners - Leaks from your HVAC system can result in a 25 to 30 percent energy loss. Finding these leaks can be difficult but are well worth the time. Consider using a blower door test to find them. A blower door test depressurizes a home so energy output can be recorded and is conducted by professionals when sealing air leaks.

· Hot Tub and Pool – Make sure to use an effective pool or spa cover. Hot Tub Works advises that the flimsy covers that often come standard with new products have a very low R-value and waste energy.

Seal Them Up

Once you have spotted the troublesome areas use caulk and weatherstripping to plug the airy holes. Be cognizant of which caulk you should be using when sealing your home. For example, silicone-based caulk would work better on bathtubs or tiles and butyl-based rubber would work better on windows. Energy.gov has a list of caulking materials and when they should be used.

Let the Professionals Take Care of It

If this sounds tedious you can have an audit done by a professional. Audits cost anywhere from $100 to $400, but they will provide you with a comprehensive report and provide you with sound recommendations ranging from simply sealing a few windows to completely replacing your AC system.

Sealing your home is a quick, cost-effective way of lowering your electricity bill before the Texas summer truly peaks. Whether you choose to do –it-yourself or employ the services of a professional make sure to take a look at the most uncommon spots for air leakage.

Cutting-Edge Technologies & DIY Conversions For Alternative Fuel Motorcycles

From the mountains of Afghanistan to global vehicle expos and racetracks to home garages, alternative fuel motorcycle innovations continue to green the biking landscape. Here’s a roundup of how eco-friendly advancements are shaping the motorcycle industry and these customizable two-wheel machines:

Military Motorbike: Stealth Weaponry

The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently partnered with San Francisco-based electric motorcycle manufacturer BRD Motorcycles and Logo Technologies, a defense contractor, to design a hybrid bike — the latest in motorcycle tactical weaponry. Researchers envision a hybrid motorcycle powered by a stealthy electric motor and an engine that can burn various fuels, including regular gasoline, jet fuel and diesel, according to CNN.com. BRD’s all-electric RedShift MX serves as the foundation for this motorbike prototype, and elite U.S. fighting forces are eagerly anticipating its 100-mile range and advantageous silent performance.

Michael Golembesky, a former Marine Corps special ops staff sergeant, is familiar with vehicle-dependent warfare. He carried out anti-Taliban missions on four-wheeled, all-terrain vehicles. Since leaving the service in 2010, Golembesky told CNN Marine special ops adopted motorcycles as part of their defense on harsh topography. With the extra mobility and maneuverability, troops on bikes can launch a surprise assault, move constantly to keep enemies from knowing their location, and block enemy escape.

Cutting-Edge Revolutions: Fuel Cell, Solar Power & Electric

Away from the trenches, leading motorcycle makers continue to take alternative fuel motorcycle technologies to unforeseen heights. Hydrogen fuel cell? Solar-energy powered batteries? These technological visions became two-wheeled green realities.

iON Hydrogen Fuel Cell Concept: Hero MotoCorp, the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, recently introduced its iON electric concept bike at the Auto Expo in India. Equipped with advanced lithium-air (Li-air) batteries and a hydrogen fuel extender, the bike can reach speeds of 99 mph and travel 180 miles on a single charge. The iON uses unconventional ‘M-Link’ and ‘Flex Axis’ technology, states Visordown.com. Other unconventional parts include hubless magnetic wheels and handlebar control buttons, as well as front and rear rotation and suspension systems for optimal steering.

Solar-Powered Lighting Motorcycle: Although 99 mph is fast, it’s nothing compared to the Lightening SuperBike’s 218 mph top speed. Last year the street-legal, solar-powered SuperBike won the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The battery-powered motorcycle charges its battery with solar energy and achieves high mileage with regenerative braking. Featuring a liquid-cooled 125 kW electric motor, the SuperBike demonstrated how clean technologies are at the forefront of world-class performance.

RedShift MX: Inc.com calls the RedShift MX by BRD Motorcycles more than a “supercool dirt bike.” It’s a 40-horsepower machine and “green demon” that jumps from zero to 60 in 3.3 seconds. With a single charge, the next-level bike can cover 50 miles and run for 1,000 hours before needing an oil change. Intermediate riders and pro racers can even upgrade to the Supermoto model for $500 and speed along at 85 mph, all while reducing their carbon footprint.

DIY Motorcycles: Electric & Veggie Oil Conversions

Not every eco-friendly adrenaline junkie can experience the unconventional technologies of a hydrogen fuel cell motorcycle or throw down $14,995 to feel the power of an electric two-wheeler. But with a little DIY dirty work, some eco-enthusiasm and basic motorcycle parts, anyone can help the earth by building and riding an electric or vegetable-oil powered motorcycle.

Home Electric Conversion: Marque Cornblatt, a contributor for project-sharing website Instructables.com, provides an 11-step guide on how to make an electric motorcycle conversion. He turned a Honda Rebel 250 junker into a clean quiet commuter bike in San Francisco. The first step is to find a solid bike to use for the framework, then buy some parts at an online streetbike store to make it safe and street-legal, including the lights, brakes, wheels, tires, and shocks. Once the electric components are gathered, the bike is ready for a electric-conversion remodel and energy-efficient redesign ready to charge.

Pure Veggie Oil: Straight vegetable oil, along with biodiesel, is an alternative fuel source for bikes with a diesel engine. First, install a diesel engine without rubber seals and ensure the transmission ratios are compatible with the engine’s RPM. Then install a vegetable oil fuel conversion kit into a second gas tank and an auxiliary fuel system. Activated by a switch, the auxiliary fuel system will shift the engine from diesel fuel to vegetable oil. Keep in mind it’s best to run your bike on regular diesel or biodiesel fuel during cold temperatures.

New Plan To Export Texas Electricity To Other States

A California based energy company has developed a plan to export Texas electricity to other states.  Seen as a way to make use of the state’s abundant supply of wind energy, the proposed 400 mile transmission line would be the first of its kind.  It would transmit Texas power from a point just east of Dallas to Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Texas electric grid is separate from the other major North American grids.  Texas generates more wind energy than any other state.  Because wind power by its nature can be unpredictable, the state sometimes finds that wind turbines produce more electricity than the state can use at any given time.  This could especially be true at night when temperatures tend to drop and wind tends to blow more.

Pattern Energy Group, the company responsible for the proposed new line, plans to be able to send up to 3,000 megawatts of electricity out of the Texas grid to neighboring states.  The company would use an affiliate, Pattern Power Marketing, to purchase wind power from Texas producers and sell the power to electric companies in other states.

The project is only made possible by the recent completion of massive new transmission lines that were designed specifically to bring electricity from West Texas were most of the state’s wind energy resources are to the more populous eastern part of the state.  If the plan goes through it could be completed as early as 2019 at a total cost of up to $2 billion.

 

Texas Offers Incentive For Electric Vehicles – Excluding Tesla

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has announced details of the state’s new alternative fuel vehicle rebate program.  The state will offer $2,500 for the purchase of light duty vehicles powered by electricity, compressed natural gas (CNG), or propane.  Consumers can also receive up to $2,500 for leasing these vehicles.  In order to get the full rebate, however, the lease must be at least 4 years.  Shorter leases are eligible for lesser rebates.

Authorized by the Texas State Legislature last year, the program is relatively modest.  The program will last until June 2015 or until the $7.7 million in funding is exhausted; whichever comes first. The maximum number of vehicles allowed in the program is 2,000 electric vehicles and 2,000 propane or CNG vehicles.

The rebates could be combined with other incentive programs including federal electric vehicle incentive programs.  In order to be eligible, the vehicle must be purchased through a franchised dealer in the state of Texas.  If the vehicle is purchased from an out-of-state dealer or directly from the manufacturer it will not be eligible for the rebate program.  That means would-be Tesla owners will not be eligible for rebates since the Tesla sales model doesn’t include franchised dealers.

To Apply for the Rebate Call 1-800-919-TERP.

See Also: Far From A Burdon, Electric Vehicles Will Assist The Grid