A Human Powered Future? Maybe.

Dan Conant
What the chip would look like


With all sorts of alternative energy sources vying to prove themselves the cheapest and cleanest of them all, human generated energy has recently made a big stride due to a new piece of technology from Princeton.  However, before you begin to think of something similar to the Matrix with humans being plugged into a power grid, it is important to note that humans will not generate mass quantities of energy.  This is because the energy generated is by our muscles movement, not by the small but frequent electrical impulses that trigger muscle movement. 

Princeton University engineers created a chip composed of ceramic and rubber nanoribbons.  This allows the chip to be able to flex.  The idea behind the chip is that when a muscle moves, this chip attached to it will also flex and by doing so, create a small amount of energy.  The chip is also fairly efficient in terms of energy conversion, turning mechanical energy into electrical energy at an efficiency rate of 80%. 

This chip is very important to the many fields of medicine.  There are currently a number of medical devices such as implants that require a source of energy.  Currently batteries fill this role, but when they begin to run out of energy, the patient has to undergo another surgery to have another battery put in.  With this chip implanted, repeated operations would never have to happen again unless the chip became damaged or the pacemaker was having issues.  For someone with a pacemaker, this chip would be implanted near the lungs due to its proximity to the heart as well as the constant movement of a person’s lungs due to breathing would provide a consistent a steady source of energy for the pacemaker. 

This is not the first human powered energy converter to have been conceived, but it is arguably one of the best ones.  Due to the materials in the chip, the body should also accept the chip with no issues.  Furthermore, due to the simplicity of the chip and the materials not costing too much, chips like these should become affordable soon after their debut and mass production; certainly a relief for the many people out there with heart problems and wallet problems.

Information for this article was gathered from this link.

Enterprise will “pick you up” in cleaner burning buses

By Amy Woolf

Enterprise Rent a Car company leads the way toward the incorporation of cleaner burning fuels into its fleet of cars. Over the next five years, the company is going to convert its entire shuttle bus fleet to B20, a 20 percent biodiesel mixture. It has already converted its fleets that are in high profile, metropolitan areas like Detroit, Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago.

Enterprise Holdings has the biggest fleet of buses, cars, and trucks in the world today. It is the only rental car company that is investment-grade. It has the potential to pave the way for equal companies to adopt the use of cleaner fuels. It is important for powerful companies to pursue environmental protection initiatives because they are also usually the biggest culprits of environmental harm.

Enterprise is following the goal set forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to have renewable fuel use at an average 36 billion gallons by 2022. The EPA also requires that 1.15 gallons of biodiesel be used in the US by the end of 2010, because biodiesel has the best environmental track record of any other mass-produced renewable fuel.

Biodiesel is a clean burning fuel that is able to be made from fresh or used vegetable oil, and can also be derived from animal fats and plant oils. B20, 20 percent biodiesel mixed with petroleum, can be used in any diesel engine without any modifications being made to the engine.

For more information about Enterprise Holdings environmental commitment, visit this site

Press Release

Wyoming Might Be The First State To Tax Wind Energy

Dan Conant

Quite contrary to nation wide trends of states supporting alternative energy growth and competition for development, Wyoming might become the first state in the nation to tax wind energy.  Supporters of this tax reference that the energy resource rich state (natural gas, coal, and uranium) already has taxes in all other areas of energy and that wind power should not be any different special.  If this bill passes, it will be interesting to see if other states follow suit, and how this might affect wind power growth nation wide. 

Like many states in these economic times, Wyoming is looking to find more income to battle deficits and to avoid debt.  Nationwide, many states are broadening their tax bases while re-budgeting for this upcoming year.  However, alternative energy sources are usually not pursued by states while imposing new taxes.  Because alternative energy is such a booming industry right now states often offer incentives to attract alternative energy investors because of the money, cleanliness, and other benefits associated with ‘green’ energy. 

The proposed tax would be 3$ per megawatt hour excise tax on commercial wind energy generation, which comes out to be about a five percent tax on the wind energy generated.  It is estimated that this tax would generate about 11.5 million dollars per year in income for the state and the counties that the wind turbines/farms would be in.  This bill is very important for Wyoming because it has the 12th highest potential for wind power generation in the nation.  Even some supporters of this bill are wary of how it should end up, because they understand that wind development could become non-existent in Wyoming if the state becomes too greedy with its proposed tax.  This is because wind turbines are very expensive, at roughly two million dollars a piece, the cost of creating a wind farm is pricey.  Because of the initial high start-up cost as well as the sales tax and property tax for the turbines and the land they would be located on, developers and investors could very easily be scared away from Wyoming as a whole.  This bill is certainly being watched carefully by various groups and organizations across the country, because the passing of a bill like this could produce big changes nationwide for alternative energy developments.

Information for this posting was gathered from this news article.

Livin’ Breezy

Dan Conant

With many countries setting goals for reductions in fossil fuel consumption after the recent Copenhagen climate conferences;  countries are trying to even produce 25% of their energy from clean or renewable sources.  But what about 100%?  For most 100% seems ludicrous; but on an island in Denmark it is very feasible and has been proven to be possible.  Located right off the North Sea, the wind never stops howling across this island, and the islanders are willing to everything on the line to be provided with clean power.  Also, the islanders are very motivated as they have large stakes and own many shares in the turbines.

Turbines Off Of Samso. Photographer Unknown

Samso island is home to roughly four-thousand people who are excited to move forward with their wind turbine expansion.  One main reason for the islanders willingness to put up these turbines is that typically people living on islands pay from two to four times as much for electricity compared to people on the mainland.  Although the turbines do make some noise as their blades whiz through the air and they take away from the serene look on the island; free power is more than enough to convince them to keep pushing forth with turbine expansion.  Not to mention that once the turbine building is complete, the people of Samso will have the potential to sell electricity back to the grid, helping them pay back their investments sooner and eventually making a profit.

Many in the environmental fields are pushing Samso island as an example of how populations can be freed from fossil fuels and almost eliminate their carbon footprint, but there are still many skeptics.  Samso island is lucky enough to have a great location to be able to utilize the abundant winds off the north sea, and has plenty of space to erect turbines.  In comparison, Samso island is significantly larger than Manhattan, NY.  Additionally, the funding for such projects is very costly, but due to an enthusiastic local population the turbine expansion is becoming possible.  Furthermore Samso may not be able to be comparable to major cities due to population density and other factors, but it is an important representation of how a green-motivated economy can be successful in achieving its goals for renewable energy.

Information for this article was gathered from this link.

Using Biodiesel Improves Miner’s Health

By Amy Woolf

Using biodiesel in underground mines has been proven to improve the underground air quality within a few days of switching from conventional fuel to biodiesel. Air quality is the main factor relating to poor health of miners. Mining companies reported claims to the air improvement after the switch to biodiesel, which caused the Mine Safety Health Administration (MSHA) to publish a report confirming these claims. The MSHA tested the biofuel and found that it not only reduced emissions, but they also found that there was no loss of performance in machines running biodiesel, even when they run for 20 hours at times.

Risks related to the exposure to Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) can be mild such as eye and nose irritation to more serious lung conditions. Miners are exposed to over 100 times the typical environmental concentration of diesel exhaust when working in mines that run machines on diesel fuel. The MSHA tested several blends of biodiesel and found that it did “result in a cleaner and healthier working environment.” The Rogers Group, a mining company in Kentucky, has been using biodiesel for three years in their mines, B99 (which is a 99% blend of biodiesel) in below sea level mines and B50 (50% blend of biodiesel) in mines with more natural airflow. Biodiesel in a traditional diesel engine has been proven and endorsed by the MSHA to reduce the DPM in the mining environments by reducing the quantity of harmful emissions like carbon in the particulate matter (biodiesel contains oxygen which allows for a more complete combustion of CO2).

Biodiesel is a growing sector of the renewable fuel movement. It burns cleaner than conventional fuel and can be made from vegetable oils, fats, and recycled cooking oil. It is relatively simple to manufacture, making it possible to successfully “home-brew”.

Image from: Dieselnews Australia

Press Release