Advent Of A Sustainable Economy


There is a symbolic movement of our times that is promising a new lifestyle. A lifestyle that is not only transforming the vision of the future but changing the way we do business and invest. It is a possibility where the energy is produced and consumed sustainably, the environment is clean, and all of nature is in its healthy state. I know this could sound very idealistic when we are constantly bombarded by bad news. But if we look deeper the sustainable revolution has inspired and compelled governments and corporations to make goods and services such as clean power, extend green tax credits and encourage local recycling mandates that affect our day to day lives. This trend has also resulted in a new race to create better and more efficient cars and buildings which consume less energy and resources. New and advanced methods of growing food, and developing medications with organic ingredients are influencing nutrition and health care sectors as well. More humane procedures, like using fewer chemicals and minimizing animal testing’s has been advocated by consumers and activists alike. Even Local counties and schools are encouraging their constituents to recycle and conserve, this has resulted in many of us reusing shopping bags, using public transportation paying a premium for locally grown organic food and driving a fuel-efficient car.

But then we must also pay attention as to who are joining the movement to “LOOK” good and who are actually participating to” DO” good. Green washing is another technique where many may use to fit and conform into the new trend. Following the investments and the money chasing green projects is one way to keep abreast with what’s happening in the world of sustainability. As an entrepreneur or consumer pputting your money where your heart is another way to ensure the brightest idea will not get anywhere with the wrong funders. Don’t get intimidated by traditional start-ups and their glamorous image. You are not in the business of looking good, you’re in the business of doing good! And this is particularly what makes you stand out from the crowd. Invest in your purpose, put your heart and mind to nurture that big idea. Slowly, but surely, you can get the ball rolling further than you would have ever imagined.

Many VC monies may come with lots of strings attached and loss of creative liberty to steer businesses in the right direction hence not getting get stuck on the idea of VCs and cash in the bank but with key partnerships and  resources instead could be essential. People, skills, relationships that bring the right mix together to co-create things which at the end of the day may increase capacity to help move businesses further that otherwise would have been paid for. The right partners will embark on a journey with you because they believe in what you do and will give time, skills, networks and passion. That may be worth a whole lot than just cash!. If we must need to go the traditional route and go for the big money – VCs, grants etc – being picky about who we are pitching to may be critical. Research the VC’s or foundation’s history of giving, their pre-existing conditions and their relationship with their beneficiaries. Before pitching, try to meet with them informally and see if you click on the same things. Do you trust that person after you have left the meeting? Would they be an enjoyable teammate? Do you want to share more with them and value their advice, beyond just the business side of things? If your answer is yes, then go for it. Investments will come pouring.

In short align your values and stay true to yourself, your mission and your vision.  Never compromise and never lose sight of the purpose of your business, organizations or projects. Be authentic in everything you do!  Authenticity reinforces your purpose. Funding will only make it flourish. But if the Mission of sustainability is not there then there is nothing that can flourish.

Curated By Naved Jafry & Garson Silvers

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IMPACTS TO CITY ECONOMICS THROUGH CLIMATE CHANGE

climate change 3Cities’ roles in fighting climate change have been showcased in recent years. In July, mayors from around the world met at the Vatican to discuss climate change. Last year, a report from the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group found that, on their own, cities had the potential to cut 8 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In August, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote in Foreign Policy that cities are “key” to fighting climate change.
Many of the most important new initiatives of this century — from the smoking ban adopted in New York City to the bus rapid transit system pioneered in Bogotá have emerged from cities,” Bloomberg wrote. “Mayors are turning their city halls into policy labs, conducting experiments on a grand scale and implementing large-scale ideas to address problems, such as climate change, that often divide and paralyze national governments. Cities around the world have suffered severely from climate change and pollution, so it makes sense that some of them are starting to find new ways to tackle climate change. Dry weather and major air pollution has made Santiago, Chile home to some of the worst air in the world. Beijing, China also regularly suffers from dangerous air pollution while Superstorm Sandy hit New York City hard.
climate change 5

Making cities greener could save a lot of, well, green, according to a new report. The report, published Tuesday by the New Climate Economy, found that if cities around the world implemented certain carbon-reducing strategies — including making buildings more efficient and investing in public transportation they could save a combined total of $17 trillion by 2050. The report looked at actions such as “aggressively” deploying high-efficiency lighting, “ambitiously” installing solar on buildings, increasing the fraction of methane captured from landfills, and expanding public transit. It found that, if all of the measures were implemented, cities would reduce their combined greenhouse gas emissions by 3.7 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030. That’s more, the report notes, than the annual emissions of India.
climate change 4Nick Godfrey, head of policy and urban development at the New Climate Economy, said in a statement that the amount of money saved by cities could be even higher. US$17 trillion in savings is actually a very conservative estimate, because it only looks at direct energy savings generated from investments which are a small proportion of the wider social, economic, and environmental benefit. The report recommends that cities make commitments to undertake these carbon-saving initiatives by 2020. On the national level, countries should implement support structures that incentivize city-wide efforts to reduce emissions. The international level, at least $500 million should be made available for cities to expand existing efforts to tackle climate change. The international community will be key in helping cities in developing nations find the capital they need to make these changes investing in improving the creditworthiness of these countries, for instance, can help them raise needed funds. That tactic has worked with cities in Uganda and Peru, the report points out. Overall there is now an increasing evidence that emissions can decrease while economies continue to grow. Hence major cities committed to fighting climate change are on a trajectory to be feasible with good economics.

DANGERS TO THE FUTURE PROGRESS OF SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGIES

solar 2Solar perovskite cells, patterned with gold electrodes, await tests that
measure their efficiency at converting sunlight into electricity. (Plamen Petkov)

In the 1950s vertically integrated giants such as IBM and AT&T evolved its telecommunication and semiconductor businesses by having their global network of suppliers compete for its business at every step of the value chain including and not limited to redesigning components and dramatically improve the performance and cost of electronics. But if you look at how clustered sustainable technologies supply chains in China work, it demonstrates that it will only reinforce the industry’s focus on today’s technology, rather than allow competition to drive tomorrow’s advances.

For instances the next generation technologies of solar and LED are developed at a slower pace in laboratories all over instead of today’s promising technologies such as the solar perovskites that could beat silicon on efficiencies and costs many folds if ramped up to scale production. But the more the solar/LED industry concentrates and calcifies in China, the harder such a disruption will happen. By subsidizing its domestic manufacturers, China also subsidizes clean energy deployment around the world. But this sort of argument by pro-deployment activists suggests that China’s dominance in solar/LED manufacturing is a boon to the world. In the near term, they may be right as the solar deployment is booming around the world, fuelled by cheap Chinese panels. But in the long term, today’s silicon/LED technologies will not displace even a substantial fraction of fossil fuel energy. This near-term/long-term disparity stems from the economics of electricity grids as solar’s/LED’s value declines as its penetration on the grid increases.

solar ledTo look into this view a little deeper there are two reasons why dramatically superior technologies will likely not emerge if the solar/LED industry remains concentrated in China. Firstly, Chinese firms are more likely to pursue incremental process improvements and cost reduction e.g., optimizing factory layouts, strengthening supply chains rather than product innovation. Some might argue that this is a dated caricature of a newly dynamic Chinese innovation complex which benefits from lavish state-funded laboratories (cf. Chinese “State Key Labs”) and improved coordination among universities, research institutes, and corporations. Still, fundamental technology researchers in China are struggling to close the gap with Western counterparts, and most major manufacturers have displayed little interest in seriously funding alternative technologies. The second reason for pessimism is that if innovation flourishes only in a Chinese-dominated industry increases, vertical integration will eventually stifle disruptive change. For example China dominates not only the panel manufacturing business, but has consolidated the entire upstream supply chain within its borders, from polysilicon to solar cell production. Where the supply chain is not formally vertically integrated, it is de facto monolithic, simply by virtue of colocation in massive industrial centers like the Yangtze River Delta Economic Zone.

solarFrom 2006 to 2011, venture capitalists invested over $25 billion in clean technologies and lost over half their money needless to say, VC interest in new solar start-ups today is minimal. But there still appears to be a silver lining when large U.S. companies can play a crucial role in driving innovation in solar and sustainable technologies. Firms like Applied Materials and Dupont still achieve levels of quality that the Chinese have been unable to replicate (in solar cell production equipment and materials, respectively), giving the United States a toehold in the solar supply chain. Moreover, two large solar panel makers First Solar and Sunpower are American and employ more advanced technologies than their Chinese competitors. And SolarCity, a downstream residential solar installer, recently acquired an innovative solar technology company and will produce its own panels in Buffalo, New York. These American solar players are far more amenable than Chinese counterparts to exploring new technologies for commercialization, and they have the sector expertise, manufacturing prowess, and project pipeline to bring new solar technology to market where VCs failed. State incentives such as those that attracted SolarCity to New York, can support American companies to drive local economies. I would strongly recommend more federal research funding to be aimed at fostering partnerships between major American firms and cutting-edge research in universities and national research laboratories. Ideally we can look forward to a time when sustainable technologies such as solar is an industry waiting to be disrupted in the US and eventually worldwide.

How Making Solar Accesseble & Affordable To All Can Change The Energy Future

solar financing      We all would love to see free limitless electricity generated by the sun. But while it’s great to see large homes owned by wealthy pioneers being solar-powered, rooftop solar should be accessible to people across the socio-economic spectrum everywhere. But putting solar on all of these different roofs is currently a serious challenge. Even with lowered PV costs and the prevalence of third-party financing programs, solar is largely out of reach for many low-income families. Many are renters who do not own their homes, putting them at the mercy of their landlord. For those that do own their homes, few have enough tax liability to take full advantage of federal and state tax incentives for rooftop solar. That’s largely a moot point anyway, since even with incentives the steep upfront cost of rooftop solar puts a PV system financially out of reach for low-income families. That’s where third-party leasing can come in, but many low-income families have low credit scores and most solar leasing companies require a higher credit score. It’s one potential financial barrier after another.
Fortunately, there are groups around the world working to overcome these barriers to market participation and ultimately bring solar to low-income households. Giving low-income families access to solar PV systems can help lower their utility bills, provide employment opportunities, and bring about an element of environmental and economic justice.

Saving Money
Low-income families spend over twice the proportion of their total income on energy bills than the average person with a higher income. When low-income families have high energy bills one of the first thing they often skimp on is food. Researchers from the Boston Medical Center have found that children in energy-insecure households don’t get enough food, have poorer health, and are more prone to developmental problems. One way to lower energy bills and keep food on the table is to power homes with solar photovoltaics.
I believe that Low-income families pay into the rebate pool like everyone else. Yet often, even with rebates, they can’t afford a solar home system. Grid Alternatives, or simply Grid, as it is fondly called, is a nonprofit organization providing low- to no-cost PV systems to low-income families throughout California, Colorado, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Homeowners who earn 80 percent or less of the median income and have a solar-appropriate roof qualify for a Grid Alternatives PV system. “We see people save an average of 50 to 75 percent off their electric bill. Money that can go towards paying their mortgage, putting food on the table, or saving for college.
Grid works with local partners to find qualifying families. The families do not have to put any money down, but do have to contribute 16 hours of sweat equity. They can work in the Grid office, help on the installation, or even cook lunch for the installation volunteers. They then pay $0.02 per kilowatt-hour for what their system produces. It’s a small price to pay for leasing the system, often adding up to only about $100 per year, but according to Chuck Watkins, executive director of Grid Alternatives–Colorado, “we want the homeowners highly engaged with their system and aware of their energy usage.”
solar saving graphA similar organization, Citizens Energy, provides free solar PV systems that reduce homeowners’ electricity costs by 40 to 50 percent in the Imperial Valley of California, an area with the highest unemployment rate in the country. With temperatures in the area climbing to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, homeowners can have a difficult time paying for the electricity to run their cooling systems. Citizens Energy uses 50 percent of its profits from its share of the Sunrise Powerlink high-voltage transmission line that brings renewable energy to the San Diego region to purchase, install, and maintain the systems. The homeowner signs a 20-year lease only after they receive a free energy audit and weatherization services. One of the 200 homeowners to receive the free PV system saw her monthly summer electricity bill go from $350 to $85.
A statewide program in California is also helping low-income families. SASH (Single-family Affordable Solar Homes) provides fully subsidized 1 kW systems to very-low-income households (50 percent or below the area median income), and highly subsidized systems to other low-income households. The incentives for the subsidized systems range from $4.75 to $7.00 per watt, depending on the customer’s utility rate schedule and tax liability. Incentives are higher for customers who cannot take advantage of the ITC. Over 3,600 systems have been installed, and participating families’ electricity bills have been reduced by approximately 80 percent.
Green Jobs
Another benefit to bringing solar access to low-income families is increasing employment opportunities. Low-income communities often have high rates of unemployment. Yet more than 140,000 people are employed in the solar industry, more than half of them in installation jobs that can’t ever be outsourced. That’s a drop in the bucket of the 46.5 million Americans currently living in poverty, but with solar installations growing at a rate of 40 percent, those jobs are going to keep growing as well. Grid Alternatives, for its part, installs its systems with local volunteers and partners with job training organizations to provide hands-on field experience students need to get certified as solar installers and to get jobs. Partners include community colleges and vocational schools, the Center for Employment Training, YouthBuild, Veterans Green Jobs, and Green City Force.
At a recent installation in Carbondale, Colorado, twelve local volunteers along with the homeowner helped install a 3.6 kW system for Dan and Pam Rosenthal.  Volunteer comes out to at least four to six installs where they can get valuable hands-on experience as well as experience in leading crews, and a lot of our team leaders end up getting employed in the industry.

Environmental Justice
Clean energy access for low-income Americans is not just an issue of economics, but an issue of justice, as well. Lower-income people are more susceptible to the negative impacts of climate change, may be more affected by urban pollution, and face health issues from living closer to coal plants. Often times low-income families are the ones most affected by pollution but with solar in the mix it’s nice to see that they too can be part of the climate change solution.
Even more important is that the new systems are estimated to save 75 percent off their monthly electric bill each month along with the amount of CO2 that families will be offsetting in the lifetime of their system, helping communities reach its carbon footprint goals.
Over all I think cities around the world should embark on a minimum goal of generating 35 percent of its electricity by renewable energy by 2020. It’s a big goal but through participation from everyone, smart solar businesses can help erase the financial barriers to to the future of energy.

Can Transitioning Our Electricity Grid To Evolve Into A Shared Economy platform Such As Airbnb or Uber Work ?

shared revolutionAs Thomas Friedman reported in the New York Times, the shared economy is booming, with companies like Uber and Airbnb continuing to disrupt the incumbent taxi service and hotel sectors. The Ubers and Airbnbs of the world tap the huge value of underutilized assets and create millions of dollars of value for users in the process. Shared economy companies unbundle existing assets and enable value exchange out of those assets, with close to zero marginal capital cost since the users themselves own the actual physical assets, whether a car or a home. Could the electricity grid be next to go the way of a sharing economy?
For more than a century, the electric grid has relied almost exclusively on centralized infrastructure, such as large power plants and long-distance transmissions lines. But distributed energy resources (DERs)—and the customers buying, installing, and using them—are changing the economic landscape for the power sector. Energy efficiency, demand response, distributed generation such as rooftop solar, distributed storage such as batteries, smart thermostats, and more are poised to become the front lines of a sharing economy revolution for the grid. Shared economy solutions will help to increase asset utilization rates and improve consumer and overall system economics, just as they have for other sectors.
What’s been missing—so far—is a trusted, open peer-to-peer (P2P) platform for DERs to “play” in a shared economy. An independent platform underlies the success of many shared economy businesses. At its core, the platform monetizes trust and interconnection among market actors—a driver and a passenger, a homeowner and a visitor, and soon, a power producer and consumer—and allows users to both bypass the central incumbent (say a taxi service, hotel, or electric utility) and go through a new service provider (say Uber, Airbnb, or in the power sector, Google).
Now as millions gain experience and trust with Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft, they should reasonably ask, “Why couldn’t I share, sell or buy the energy services of consumer-owned and -sited DERs like rooftop solar panels or smart thermostats?” The answer may lie in emerging business models that enable 1) peer-to-peer sharing of the benefits of DERs, and 2) increased utilization of the electric system and DERs.
Peer-to-Peer Access
Peer-to-peer (P2P) platforms empower consumers to directly buy and list a diverse set of products and services. For example, Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO) allows anyone who owns a vacation home to rent it out when not in use. VRBO creates revenue streams for the house owner, and expands accommodations options outside of traditional hotels to travelling consumers. Similarly, good old-fashioned weekly farmers markets bypass “centralized” supermarkets, bringing “distributed” local foods direct from farmers to consumers. In both cases, P2P platforms provide consumers direct access to and enhanced information about the source of diversified goods or services.
On the electricity side, this past April, Netherlands-based Vandebron (literally translated as “from the source”) launched a platform similar to VRBO, which allows individuals to buy electricity straight from a local farmer with excess electricity production from solar PV panels or biogas-to-power installations. Forget farm-to-table food; this is farm-to-meter power. The website allows you to pick from different producers, each featuring a high-quality picture and a small story about their farm, betting on the trust component to change how people pick their electricity producer. In this example, farmers receive a higher compensation from the platform per unit of electricity then they would selling their power to traditional utilities.
Likewise, California-based Mosaic offers private investors a P2P lending platform for solar power, although Mosaic aggregates investors to fund larger solar projects, so it may more accurately be described as a group-to-peer platform. Mosaic customers invest in solar projects sited on top of schools and other locations, and earn a rate of return that beats many investment vehicles in the market today. Revenue from the solar generation is shared between the investor and employed to offset the customer utility bill.
Increasing Asset Utilization
Any underutilized private asset is now a target for shared economy platforms, and that includes DERs.
Distributed Energy Resources
Take rooftop solar PV systems, for one example. For grid-connected customers with rooftop solar, the majority of whom are net metered, existing valuation and compensation mechanisms fail to capture or share many values among participants at the distribution edge or exacerbates asset utilization problems.
Net energy metering compensates PV system owners for the kWh production of their system, but may not reflect the full range of system values that DERs can provide. These values—including wholesale peak shaving (since solar PV output is often coincident with peak demand), relief of distribution system congestion, and emissions reductions—are potentially left on the table, while a shared economy solution could enable direct exchange of those values between consumers. Peers on the same congested distribution circuit could buy and sell energy services from DERs from one another, for example, providing relief for their feeder circuit.
For another example, consider unused DER siting locations such as south- and west-facing rooftops of multi-family buildings and commercial buildings. These are prime targets for shared economy DER products and services. Emerging tariffs such as Virtual Net Metering in California utility territories allow for sharing of these unused locations and the renewable energy they generate by allowing their value to bridge from building owner to tenant.
Bulk Power System
A P2P platform for DERs can also benefit the bulk power system.
In Thomas Edison’s grid, as with much of the grid today, central-station bulk generators with monopoly power deliver energy and information unilaterally through transmission, distribution, and metering networks to end users. According to the New York State Department of Public Service, “the bulk power system is designed to meet retail peak demand, which … tends to be 75% higher than average load. The total rate of system utilization is under 60 percent.” Similarly, SDG&E’s load factor has been steadily declining (to less than 50 percent in 2013).
With a growing difference between “base” and peak load—and central power assets that sit idle much of time, more or less called into use only to meet the peaks—the bulk power system’s decreasing load factor is a sign of increasing asset underutilization … just like the spare bedroom in your house that’s vacant most of the year, or the empty car seats so prevalent in Americans’ single-occupancy car commuting. That’s untapped value a shared economy P2P platform can access, including in the bulk power sector.
For example, optimally-deployed and dispatched DERs (ranging from energy efficiency and demand response to generation and storage) can shave peak demand, reducing the need for utilities to purchase and deliver expensive wholesale energy during peak demand periods. DERs have the potential to produce a smoother load curve, resulting in a smaller amplitude difference between “base” and peak load, and thus improving the grid’s load factor and improving the grid’s overall asset utilization rate. By enabling sharing of P2P DER energy services, the distribution system platform can more fully capture that economic opportunity.
P2P, But Not Without A Central Backbone
As decentralized DER markets emerge, the possibility that the power sector becomes a massive platform for shared economy businesses is real and exciting. As others have opined, the electricity consumer will quickly become a prosumer in a shared power economy, benefiting participants and non-participants alike. The question is how the incumbent grid can financially survive the coming energy system disruption, as it is a valuable component of the platform.
No P2P platform is without a centralized backbone. Whether Airbnb, Uber, or something as yet unknown for DERs, telecommunications and software infrastructure—and the electricity grid—is a critical enabler of a P2P sharing economy. This is true, not just to literally make the platform work, but also to provide consumers with both choice and reliability.
Can’t find a ride on Uber? Take your personal car, or use a car-sharing service, or call a taxi, or rent a car, or take public transportation. You’ve got options, including several “centralized” ones, and those options give you both choice and reliability. So it should be with power, too. A P2P sharing economy for DERs doesn’t obviate centralized power resources and the grid—it complements the grid to provide consumers with a more optimized set of choices and reliability.
P2P solutions are an exciting prospect, but other options, including grid-sourced power, will remain a piece of the puzzle that together offer the system reliability people and businesses demand of today’s electric power grid.
The Path Forward
Along with grid utilization improvements, the increased market adoption of decentralized energy resources creates new markets for democratized and transactive trading of power and information. In turn, the opportunity for trade creates opportunities for new business models to disrupt the current utility monopoly around power delivery.
The regulatory challenge and opportunity is to determine the best path forward to support innovation through markets, maintain gains in clean energy programs, and uphold regulatory compacts to provide reliable service at reasonable rates. Existing regulatory paradigms and utility systems are insufficient to enable the same type of information, payment, and market disruption that spawned the sharing economy. New distribution system platforms are under development in several jurisdictions, either leading—or being led by—the explosive growth of DERs.

Can Drones Change The World?

Drones do not offer a glimpse of the future but rather they are firmly rooted in the now, serving construction, agriculture, archaeology, entertainment and, well, plenty more too. So rapid has this growth of drone use been that in just nine years since the inception China-based DJI, the largest consumer drone manufacturer in the world, are reported to have a valuation of $10 billion. While drones are becoming more frequently used in performing arts to provide a richer experience for the audience – Cirque du Soleil and John Cale both having used DJI models during live shows. Drones can also be used for good Airware, for example, – described by TechCruch as “perhaps Silicon Valley’s premier drone start-up” – help companies build custom drones using their innovative technology to assist in various industry tasks. The Company saw an opportunity to create a platform for commercial drones that can be customized or adapted for multiple uses, that also offers ongoing customer support. Airware created an Aerial Information Platform, an operating system that combines hardware, software, and cloud services to enable companies to safely operate drones at scale, meet regulatory and insurance compliance requirements, and rapidly develop industry-specific drone solutions. Airware also recently announced a strategic partnership with General Electric that will allow the multi-billion dollar conglomerate to collect better data, make more informed decisions and keep workers out of harm’s way and it will likely be the first in a wave of similar agreements, both in the US and UK, that will mount pressure on authorities to re-write the rule book. There are work-arounds, however, with Skycatch – another Silicon Valley start-up – having launched the WORKMODE initiative – dubbed the “Uber of the drone business” – which trains drone pilots, giving them online qualifications and connecting them with customers.

Drones

All of these drone companies are bound to the same regulations as outlined by the Federal Aviation Administration (in the USA) and progress will be dependent upon their willingness to be adaptable as these devices become more prevalent.
The FAA is wary of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and, as they explain, introducing them into the nation’s airspace will be an enormous challenge because the U.S. has the busiest, most complex airspace in the world. Although it appears that the speed at which change is exacted will never be fast enough as without a comprehensive legal framework in place, the possibility for innovation using aerial technology will diminish and the risk of unsafe or irresponsible use may only go up as less people know or understand the rules. Hence slow pace of regulations is the biggest threat to a fully autonomous device where FAA will need to be flexible as the drone industries ambition for expansion grows.

I believe this is a pertinent issue that all drone manufacturers will be eager to address, even it will offer something of a level playing field in the industry. There has been encouragement in recent months from the FAA that influential figures such as US Senator Cory Booker have pushed for legislation that would offer more support for the advancement of drone technology. According to current legislation companies can now legally conduct operations in the US today via section 333 exemptions and can expect to see operations open up more broadly in the near future as the FAA has accelerated the approval of section 333 exemptions and is giving nationwide blanket Certificate of Authorizations. This I think will ensure that the final regulatory framework keeps the skies safe and open for innovation.

Overall, I’m excited to see how many industries drones can help and how I hope that over time, a compromise can be reached between the regulators and the industry where the sky really is the limit, where drone technology can benefit us all.

Cooling The Smart Way

Heating and cooling accounts for the majority of energy usage within our homes and work spaces. It’s estimated that 100 million tons of carbon dioxide are released each year in America as a result of air conditioning. In fact, the whole of Africa uses less electricity in total than America uses for air conditioning alone. In 2008, Americans spent more than 3% of the nation’s GDP in heating, cooling, and lighting—almost two-thirds of the entire defense budget and more than federal government spending on Medicare.

US-based company Advantix have pioneered an air conditioner that uses up to 40% less energy and saves up to 50% in running costs by using salt water. It’s also the same price as a traditional air conditioner.

The technology was discovered by a family who decided to open Israel’s first ice skating rink and had to find a cheap way to cool hot air in their humid climate. It works by simplifying the air-conditioning process, which normally involves complex equipment and expensive gases. The system treats hot air with a non-toxic saltwater solution, which naturally cleans, dehumidifies and cools the air.

Energy Blogger, Gemma Jamieso argues that the added bonus of using the salt-water solution is that it kills any germs in the air, helping to prevent the spread of airborne illnesses and making it a particularly useful and cost-effective investment in the workplace.

cooling engg

Image from Advantix

This system is also a blessing to contractors to prevent mould and mildew related litigations as the air-conditioning unit  eliminates odours and helps to prevent the growth of mould and mildew.

The scalability of the technology is huge as 75% of the world is affected by humidity, including emerging markets China and India. If the technology replaced traditional air-conditioning units, the impact could make a significant difference to the amount of CO2 emitted from both rich and poor countries. As they cite in the Sustainia100 report, “The International Energy Agency has found that basic efficiency standards for appliances, motors, and air-conditioning units in developing countries could account for half the carbon emissions reductions needed to stabilize global temperature rise at 2°C.”

But for many using a conventional air conditioning system is often the most expensive and energy intensive way to cool a home. If you are buying a new air conditioner, first consider reducing heat gain in your home through passive cooling measures and increasing ventilation with low energy fans. Then consider investing in more expensive cooling systems like evaporative coolers, heat pumps, and air conditioners. If you already have an air conditioner, properly maintain it so that it runs at peak efficiency. As for other alternative cooling options mentioned below could open up possibilities for future builders.

Solar Evaporative Coolers

Solar evaporative coolers powered by photovoltaic (PV) cells are one way to make the best out of the worst. This is an ideal system because PV cells operate most effectively during peak hours of the day—the hottest part of the day when electricity is most expensive.

Heat Pumps

A heat pump can be used for both heating and cooling. In the summer, it acts as an air conditioner, removing heat from air inside the house and carrying it outside. In the winter, it operates in reverse, removing heat from air outside the building and carrying it inside to warm the living space. There are two main types of residential heat pumps: air-source and geothermal, which are also known as ground source and geo exchange heat pumps.

Air-source heat pumps

Air-source heat pumps use outside ambient air to cool a home. They are similar to conventional central air conditioning systems except they also have the ability to heat the home. Some models can even provide air circulation, air filtration, humidification, dehumidification, and water heating services. This may sound like an amazing system. However, before rushing out and buying one, note that air-source heat pumps might not heat a home any better than an electric heating system in extreme winter climates. A backup system is often necessary to help the air-source heat pump achieve comfortable temperatures in extreme winter climates.

Geothermal heat pumps

Geothermal heat pumps use the ground, surface water, or underground water as a heat source and heat sink. They use underground pipes, typically buried 3 to 6 feet below the surface, to take advantage of the ground’s relatively constant year-round temperature. The pipes are usually filled with a heat transfer fluid, which in summer carries heat from inside the house and releases it into the ground thereby cooling your home. In winter, it extracts heat from the ground to heat the home. Geothermal heat pumps use 23–44 percent less energy than the more commonly used air-source heat pumps and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), they can save a typical homeowner 30 to 70 percent in heating bills and 20 to 50 percent in cooling costs. This could amount to over $400 per year in energy savings.

Hence when purchasing any of these systems look for the Energy Star label to ensure you’re purchasing a highly efficient product. Many models have efficiencies even higher than the Energy Star system requires, with COPs greater than 5.0 and EERs greater than 17.0. The price tag may be a little higher than on non Energy Star units, but you will pay off your investment every time you use the equipment.

Overall with technologies such as Solar, geothermal heat pumps being deployed  in major organisations around the world it would be just tempting to believe that sustainable engineers and companies such as advantix could lead the next cooling revolution of the world !!.

SOURCES

A: U.S. Energy Information Administration. 2010. Annual Energy Review 2009. Washington DC: U.S. Energy Information Administration, August 19. link

B, C: Bureau of Economic Analysis. “National Economic Accounts.” link

D, E: Executive Office of the President of the United States. 2011. “Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2011.” ” link