Thursday, August 9, 2007

9Volts won't save the world, but....

While stationed as a volunteer in the Republic of Kiribati, the lack of twilight lighting was a major issue for volunteers and students alike. Given the fact that many of the houses in the surrounding government stations would have solar or generator-powered fluorescent lighting, they were still of no help to the volunteers and I-Kiribati (native Kiribati) in the outer villages who only had oil lamps in which to study, cook and work. In some areas of the world children are able to improvise. However, isolated countries like Kiribati have little to offer in terms of industrial faculty and resourcefulness (when Air Kiribati was actually running, we only had one scheduled flight to and from our island per week).

We might take efficient lighting for granted in developed countries but as you can see from the Peace Corps project donation site, power and energy are on-going projects in a large portion of under-developed countries. With the understanding that lighting facilitates a higher standard of living, I've been looking anxiously for a simple solution.

I happened across Mathmos.com and and lit up when I saw their 9Volt project:


Clean, simple, undemanding design at its best.

BUT-there's always a but...


Are they over-priced? Yes. (I love the wine glasses)
At a sale price of 5 for $100, I don't see them falling into the hands of Guinea seventh graders any time soon.

Are they renewable? Not necessarily.
As the US industrialized, our position in the global pecking order proffered us the ability to progress at any speed we felt necessary - with or without the concerns of the environment at our conscience (See: Northwest Atlantic Cod - even in the early 90's!). So while many of these countries might not have a capable means to dispose of the batteries, it is unfortunately viable that they are so readily available. Why not afford them the same opportunities we had so that we may only need to teach one generation?* So...

...are the batteries really a problem? Not necessarily.
Take this design and do what inventors have been doing for years: run with it. Replace the battery with solar cells...what about higher lumen LED's... or non-electrochemical envirofriendly cells...maybe a secondary battery with a crank chargeable attachment for a bike chain...include a hand crank to store the charge...*subsidize the distribution with the help of a battery directive...and so on and so on and so on. If a concept like OLPC is plausible, then a battery/LED project is a piece of cake!

Just some thoughts for your Thursday morning...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Suburban Sprawl: The Virus Continues....


A couple weeks ago I posted an article on Suburbia's Stranglehold (Full Disclosure: while dosing heavily on antibiotics, Nyquil and copious amounts of vicodin - so I can't make any promises as to the coherence of the post).

Well, Architechnophilia found a great article about America's Fastest Growing Suburbs. Although the superlative makes the article sound somewhat positive, keep in mind that this virus is killing any sense of identity this country has/has left.

And although living in sprawl is understandable in spun markets like CA and AZ - where 30% off urban rates can mean, in some cases, $400K in savings - what kind of stress are you placing on an environment by increasing your population 237% annually?


This is not the American Dream.

Ireland's Tidal Turbine Delayed...

*Collective sad sigh*

The world's first tidal turbine was set to create electricity from tidal energy, but installation dates have been pushed back. Originally planned for drop-down in Northern Ireland this summer, an unfortunate August 3rd press release announced that Marine Current Turbines would be delaying installation due to prior commitments of the installation vessel (shown below).


A2Sea, the owners and operators of the machine, are currently in discussion with Marine Current Turbines to decide on a new date. Apparently A2Sea is behind schedule on another project, with the irony being that the top of their homepage states, "We deliver...based on the experience of more than 200 offshore wind turbines successfully installed." They did say when they deliver...just that they did, in fact, deliver.
From the website:

SeaGen is the name given to the 1.2MW tidal energy converter that will be installed in Strangford Lough during 2007. Sea Generation Ltd is the project company which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marine Current Turbines Ltd. SeaGen has been has been licensed for a maximum installed duration of 5 years.

Marine Current Turbines Ltd have been operating the 300kW Seaflow tidal energy system at Lynmouth, Devon since May 2003 and are recognised as being one of the worlds leading tidal energy system developers.




The proposal to install SeaGen in Strangford Lough was initiated in November 2003. The environmental consultancy, Royal Haskoning Ltd was appointed in 2004 to scope the environmental considerations and conduct the environmental impact assessment.



For addition research in the field of tidal energy:
Electric Power Research Institutes's Tidal in Stream Energy Conversion Project (TISEC)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Simplicity comes at a price...

Contrary to popular opinion, I still think London is the most expensive city in the world.

Why?

Not because of the housing or cost of living of the petrol or the PPP (pound per pint), but because of the Binvention.
Given the simplicity of the design, the Binvention is quite neat - not to mention it gives me a use for all those bags I'm (yet still) accumulating. If only my 29-year-old Alzheimer's would stop preventing me from GRABBING MY CLOTH BAGS FROM THE DOOR KNOB...sheesh.

But $132 [£64.99]?

I'd rather go out and buy a plastic wall-mounted hook, thus leaving me with $130 in which to buy beer and fill the aforementioned bags.

Side Note: Did you know that people in Singapore use about 2.5 billion plastic bags per year? That comes to 2,500 bags per family - almost seven per day!

From the website:

Binvention is a stylish home recycling unit that enables you to re-use plastic carrier bags to compartmentalise and sort cans, paper, and plastic.

There's space for 4 carrier bags to sort your rubbish in...Binvention gets your recycling sorted, and makes a cool, chic feature of the previously unglamorous recycling bin. Heralded as 'super slick' by Time Out magazine, Binvention makes light work of separating waste for recycling.Not only is it a laudable environmental product, it is also a truly desirable design piece. Binvention was short-listed for Best Eco Product at Grand* Designs Magazine Awards.

*Apparently the Grand stands for price.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Vortex Mania...

I recently posted a blog about evil genius Louis Michaud and his wind vortex engine. Well, it appears as though we're only mere moments away from earth and fire vortex engines, because somebody is already working on a water vortex. Brilliant insanity!

From the website:


Austrian engineer Franz Zotl├Âterer has constructed a low-head power plant that makes use of the kinetic energy inherent in an artificially induced vortex. The water's vortex energy is collected by a slow moving, large-surface water wheel, making the power station transparent to fish - there are no large pressure differences built up, as happens in normal turbines...

Zotl├Âterer's results are quite respectable. The cost of construction for his plant was half that of a conventional hydroelectric installation of similar yield and the environmental impact is positive, instead of negative.


Although I understand a national fixture like Niagara Falls would never be permitted to install something this grand in scale, it does tickle-me-interest to think what sheer power would be generated from a world wonder so vast in size. Conversely, I'm now working on a much smaller scale, developing a mini-water vortex for my loo. Something's got to charge my cell phone!

Seem much less invasive than our other options: