Friday, March 28, 2014

Wind turbines are getting cheaper, taller, and now... Floating!

Wind power is growing, and the generation opportunities exist even in places where there's not a lot of wind. The New Your Times reports a start-up called Altaeros Energies is preparing to introduce its first commercial pilot of an airborne wind turbine in Alaska. Known as the BAT — or Buoyant Airborne Turbine — the enormous, white helium-filled doughnut surrounding a rotor will float about 1,000 feet in the air and feed enough electricity to power more than a dozen homes through one of the cables tethering it to the ground.

Take a look at the picture. This is a floating, helium-filled wind turbine! Since the wind is always stronger the higher up you go, wind power is becoming possible even in places like the southeast where traditional wind power (fixed towers) is not feasible. 

Are there potential problems? Let's think. Low flying airplanes, for one. How about the ability to withstand storms, or even hurricanes? And then there's safety. Will this thing remain tethered or float away? How about target practice? Do you think a hunter or two might be interested in seeing if they can get a bullet to reach the floating windmill?

We shouldn't poo-poo this start-up. We should celebrate the innovation and look forward to watching its first application. Just make sure you fly above 1,000 feet. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Want people to like you at work? Try this...

Being liked at work, reports the Wall Street Journal, is a key for achieving success. If people like you, there are many advantages. You're more apt to be hired in the first place, and once hired, you'll get plum assignments. You're more likely to get help from coworkers, and be forgiven more quickly when you make mistakes.

So you want to be more likable? Here's how: 1) Be curious about others. Make eye contact (or if that's too difficult, look at their nose - unless they have a funny nose - then look at their eyebrows - unless they have a unibrow...) Ask questions about their opinions and their favorite activities. Don't dwell on yourself; rather, focus on THEM. 2) Listen. Actually listen to what people are saying and follow up with questions ABOUT THEM. Don't just listen to them and immediately talk about yourself and your wonderful life. Focus on THEM. 3) Smile. What more needs to be said. Just smile more and people will enjoy being around you. 4) Be authentic. Try to be natural. Except don't be natural if being natural for you is being nasty. In that case, fake it and act nice. Being nice is more important. Shoot for an Academy Award in niceness. 5) Find common ground with others. If you share an activity, politics, family activities, then talk about those common topics.

Good luck. And remember… Smile!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Wireless electricity is supposedly coming to consumers, says CNN.

Imagine a house with no electrical outlets. You bring in a new blender, flick the switch, and presto!, electricity flows and the you have instant daiquiris! At least what CNN is reporting in a recent online report

The idea is infrastructure could be created in a house to create a giant electromagnetic field, strong enough to power light bulbs and appliances. A new startup has been created to bring us this wireless "resonance" technology, WiTricity.

There's no question that placing an energy consuming device in a magnetic field induces an electric current. If it's strong enough, power will flow. The folks at WiTricity claim its perfectly safe, stating the electricity is the same as we are experiencing in our WiFi routers, only a lot stronger.

In a WiTricity home, your smartphone will recharge in your pocket, lightbulbs will automatically come to life without being plugged in, and your TV will work without a mess of cords. Your electric car (we'll all have those soon as well) will charge in your garage without being plugged in. I know it sounds like a joke, but I am not making this up.

The company's first application is in the medical field, recharging a heart pump implanted into a patient's chest. This makes perfect sense, considering the options of operating to replace a device next to the heart, or leading a power cord from the body to the wall socket. (Ok, now I am trying to be funny.)

The challenge, CNN reports, is the limited distance the power can travel. It also seems to me that living around a constant electromagnetic field - the old EMF issue - will raise more questions and concerns about health. However for now, limited applications that get electricity to places where it's hard to attach a plug - like inside a body - is promising.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Rep. Joe Garcia leads phenomenal Capitol tour for public power utility executives

Rep. Joe Garcia leads a tour of utility executives from
Florida's public power utilities 
I learned something last week while touring the U.S. Capitol with Rep. Joe Garcia. I learned you can still be a good, humble person while taking responsibility for representing 700,000 people.

Congressman Garcia, who's district includes the public power communities of Homestead and Key West, led a group of municipal electric utility executives from around Florida on a tour of the U.S. Capitol. His knowledge of U.S. history is deep, as he explained to us the importance of events while actually standing in the places where history took place. Also, Rep. Garcia's enthusiasm for representing his entire South Florida district was evident throughout the evening. I say this even though he was not afraid to challenge his utility visitors and ask them to evolve towards using cleaner energy fuels and away from coal. Rep. Garcia is a straight talker, eager to stand up for what he believes in.

In the Old House of Representatives, Rep. Garcia shows 
how the acoustics work. There were no microphones,
yet representatives could still hear each other,
even while whispering. In this photo, Rep. Garcia is 
whispering  at our group from across the room while 
standing in the exact location where John Quincy Adams 
sat at his desk from 1833-1843. 
Highlights of the tour include the opportunity to 1) Walk around on the Senate floor; 2) Tour the floor of the House of Representatives, and 3) Get a resounding, presidential standing ovation from 200 people also touring the House floor. They did that just to give us the feeling of what it's like. Pretty cool. Check out the photos.

This is the main door to the U.S. 
House of Representatives. The 
black dot in the middle is where 
the President of the United
States stands when the 
Sergeant-at-Arms calls out  
before the State of the Union 
address "Mr. Speaker, the 
President of the United States!"

This is the carpet outside the House of Representatives
chamber. Ok, it's just carpet, but really nice carpet.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Tesla’s focus on new batteries could change the auto and electric utility industry

Tesla Motors is not just a car company. Because the equipment and charging (fueling) infrastructure doesn’t fully exist to make electric cars ubiquitous, Tesla is taking the reigns to make better batteries.
Tesla is working hard to impose a new car-driving business model on the planet. That’s not a bad thing; it’s just an observation. And it’s something that will impact the electric utility industry as well. At first blush, electric utilities might imagine all that new electric car load and how to supply it. After all, one-third of the nation’s energy is used in transportation (another third is electricity).
But Tesla is thinking bigger. They’re building a new battery factory, called a “gigafactory.” They want to build their own dedicated batteries that hold a big charge and last a long time. Since existing electric cars can only go about 100 miles without plugging in for a few hours, better batteries will help that industry expand.
New battery technology is pushing plug-in hybrid cars like the Chevy Volt and the Plug-in Prius to expand their markets significantly.
Elon Muck, Tesla’s CEO, has other plans. Not only does he want to build cars, batteries and quick car-charging stations, he also wants to sell batteries to customers and utilities to manage peak demand. Furthermore, Musk wants customers with solar power to charge batteries during the day and use the power at night.
We can only imagine the options that would open in the energy world with better batteries. Watch Elon Musk at Tesla. They’re pushing the envelope in cars, batteries, renewable energy and demand response.

The Coming American Economic Boom

In a new book titled “Unleashing the Second American Century,” Joel Kurtzman says there are 4 key forces propelling the U.S. economy forward: 1) Depth of creativity, as we can see from our tech sector, 2) Huge energy reserves and the new oil and natural gas that have recently been tapped, 3) Massive amount of money ($5 trillion) in businesses’ bank accounts waiting to be invested, and 4) Manufacturing depth.
Regarding the energy sector, Kurtzman claims we’ll be energy independent by 2020, which would be a great thing. Energy independence would change the geopolitical landscape, as the U.S. would no longer rely significantly on the Middle East for oil. While the Middle East would still remain a large global producer of oil, the U.S. would simply be able to avoid being a pawn in their regional wars and in-fighting.