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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Top Solar Gadgets from 2011

Posted by SEPCO

12/29/11 9:30 AM

I was going through CoolThings and noticed they had quite a few interesting solar gadgets that they wrote about in the last year. Here are the top solar gadgets that I found on that site and a few others.

Cookup200

solar cookup200The Cookup200 is a solar cooker that folds up and fits in a small case. It is a bit odd looking, but is made from 100% recyclable optical polyester laced with aluminum and the frame is made from Portuguese wood. The Cookup200 would be perfect for camping trips or even backyard barbeques, and because it harnesses the energy of the sun, no need for coal, gas, or wood.

Solarball

solarballAnother great gadget to take with you when camping or for use in underdeveloped areas, the Solarball purifies three liters of water using the sun. The ball-shaped rig has two chambers; one for dirty water and one for the clean water. Just fill one side with dirty water, set in the sun, and the Solarball does the rest by evaporating the clean water to the other chamber leaving the dirt and other sediments on the other side.

 

Logitech Wireless Solar Powered Keyboard

Logitech Wireless KeyboardFor the geeks out there looking for something more eco-friendly for their computers, this would be a great change from the standard keyboard that comes with computers. The wireless option also has great benefits; less cable clutter and the ability to not be stuck in one location. And unlike most wireless components, the keyboard is solar powered so no need for replacing batteries. The solar panels built in to the keyboard also charges up for up to three months, so no need to be stuck by a window or only working during the day.

Ray Solar Charger

ray solar chargerThis was one of my favorite gadgets to come across and is definitely on my wish list. The Ray solar charger is equipped with a suction cup that surrounds the solar panel allowing you to stick it on a window or windshield for maximum sun power. It even includes an onboard battery that holds the charge to transfer to your electronic device at the end of the day. Don’t need the suction cup at all times; it also comes with a kickstand to allow it to stand up. Definitely one of the neatest solar chargers I have seen yet.

LuminAID Solar Lamp

luminaidI came across this nifty little solar powered light a few weeks ago and had to make sure this ended up on the list. The LuminAID solar lamp folds up the size of a credit card, but when you blow it up and turn it on it becomes a small LED light. This is perfect for disasters, power outages, or camping. They are small enough to carry multiple solar lamps on you without taking up much space. They recharge to full in 4 to 6 hours and will stay lit for up to 6 hours at a time. Best part is the LuminAID is completely weatherproof as it houses everything inside the material, and they even float. LuminAID Lab is releasing the solar lamps in January 2012, but you can pre-order the light for $25 and one unit is sent to you, the other is donated to a community that needs it.

Diffus Solar Handbag

diffus solar handbagLadies, we didn’t forget about you. There are two interesting solar gadgets that came about this year for women. The first is the Diffus solar handbag, which has 100 tiny solar panels in a stylish pattern on the outer part of the bag. The handbag charges your devices while you are on the go and has a built in purse light that draws power from the onboard battery. All parts are either woven into the handbag or are contained in a hidden compartment and no one is the wiser.

Solar Bikini

solar bikiniAnother solar gadget for women is the solar bikini that will charge your electronics while you are sunning away. You will never run out of battery power for your mp3 player again while wearing this out to the beach.New Yorkdesigner Andrew Schneider uses 40 thin and flexible photovoltaic strips connected by conductive thread, all ending with a USB port.

 
What other solar gadgets did you see come about in 2011? Let us know and we will update to add your favorites.

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Topics: Green Ideas

Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 4

Posted by SEPCO

12/27/11 10:58 AM

Bioenergy was first discovered to be able to be used for combustible engines in 1826 by Samuel Morey. He used readily available alcohol to power the engines, but due to the popularity of steam engines and lack of funding, his work on using alcohol was pushed back. Also, with the onset of high taxes during the Civil War on alcohol, the uses of alcohol were drastically reduces as a source of energy and light. It wasn’t till the mid to late 1900’s that the use of alcohol and the production of other biofuels actually started to take off.

Bioenergy

Well what if Samuel Morey had the funding needed to pursue the combustible engine idea further with alcohol? What if other biofuels were discovered in 1826 due to his experimentations and work? Would we still be using oil and gas to power our vehicles and other machines?

Ethanol is now used in our gas for our vehicles, but only 10%, and most vehicles on the road today do not handle the ethanol like they should causing a decrease in fuel mileage, which in turn increases fuel consumption.

Biopump

What about using bioproducts? Typical plastics are made from oil, but can also be made from bio-based sources as well. Maybe if Samuel Morey or someone else during the industrial revolution had worked towards expanding bio-based products the use of oil for fuel and making of products wouldn’t be so high. We may not be using them at all. What do you think?

Renewable Energy World: Bioproducts 

Bioenergy Timeline

Want to read Part 1? Check out Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 1

Or how about Part 2? Check out Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 2 

There is even a Part 3: Check out Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 3

 

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Topics: Green Ideas

Always Use Protection on Solar Systems

Posted by SEPCO

12/22/11 9:30 AM

Solar lighting and power systems are a great way to showcase a green alternative to standard lighting and power options, but the solar needs to be protected. Solar cells are delicate and need additional protection from wind blown debris and vandalism. Since they are typically mounted on a pole, the backs are exposed to all types of things that can harm the solar cells.

Solar Power Panel Pan

Panel pans protect these delicate solar cells by covering the delicate material from the back. Protection is not the first thing thought of when looking for a solar lighting system; however, wind blown debris that gets kicked around during a good storm can have horrible effects on the solar and cause the system to fail. 

Theft and vandalism is also a major concern of solar installations. Theft and breaking of the solar arrays cost companies and individuals great amounts of money. By implementing solar power array panel pans lessen the ability to damage the systems, and installing with vandal hardware does not allow for theft due to the need for specialized tools.

Next time you are in the market for a solar system, make sure your investment will be well protected from outside issues. Ask your solar manufacturer what they do to protect the solar arrays and is there an option for vandal hardware for installation. With the cost of solar still high, make sure your system will last.

What other ways can you protect your investment?

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Power

Award Winning Solar Lighting Project for West Colfax, CO

Posted by SEPCO

12/20/11 9:30 AM

Solar Promenade LightingThe West Colfax, CO Business Improvement District recently installed eleven SEPCO Promenade Series solar power lighting systems to illuminate walkways throughout its downtown district.  Beyond sustainability benefits, West Colfax was able to save a considerable amount of money in the sense that the off-grid Promenade solar lights did not require West Colfax to incur additional expense of tearing up streets/sidewalks as the means to extend AC-power grid to the solar lights.  Better yet, the decorative design of the solar lights added aesthetic appeal to the overall project.   For these reasons and more, the installation of eleven SEPCO Promenade Series solar lighting systems played an instrumental role in helping West Colfax Business Improvement District win the Governor’s Award for Best Sustainable Downtown Project—the details for which are outlined below.

BID Wins Governor's Award for Best Sustainable Downtown Project

Solar Promenade LightThe West Colfax Business Improvement District (BID) has won the 2011 Governor's Award for Downtown Excellence for Best Sustainable Downtown Project in Colorado.  This award went to the BID for its work in creating "Denver's Sustainable Main Street" through infrastructure improvements making West Colfax more walkable and successful promotion of green technology in businesses.

The award committee commended the West Colfax BID for having "accomplished significant improvements to the overall sustainability of the district. Through both forward-planning and proactive / targeted retrofits, the BID has structured a future plan for increased sustainability in building and construction, while also actively educating and supporting existing business owners in 'green' retrofits. The program has already shown significant, measurable progress, and their model for how to work with a BID to establish and implement sustainable goals could be easily adapted by other downtown districts."

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Topics: Solar Lighting, SEPCO News & Information, Pathway Lighting

Solar and LED Lighting: A Perfect Combination

Posted by SEPCO

12/15/11 9:10 AM

solar and led lighting at night

Solar power and LED lighting are the perfect combination, kinda like milk and cookies. They work well with each other while complimenting their best attributes. Why do they work so well together? Well here's a few reasons.

LED Lights Run on DC Power

The old standard of using CFL or other types of lamps in solar lighting applications always needed a converter of some sort to run the light. This caused a loss in power, and the solar had to make up for it by being larger and having extra battery storage. Since LEDs run directly from DC power, there is no need for a converter or extra power to make up for the loss.

Better Light Output

LEDs provide a better light output and can meet any part of the lighting spectrum from bright blue-white to soft warm glow of incandescent lamps. They also come in a variety of colors for other applications such as landscape, decorative, or mood lighting.

Better Visibility

The bright white of LEDs provide a better CRI (color rendition index) and provide better sight at night. As LEDs can match the CRI of the sun, looking under a solar LED street light would not be much different than looking at the same thing during the day. 

Lower Power Consumption

LEDs use a fraction of the power needed for one incandescent lamp and a third less power than compact fluorescent lamps. The lower power consumption provides better light patterns for the same size solar power system, which in turn lowers the cost due to fewer poles needing to be installed.

Longer Life Expectancy

Solar lasts 25+ years, why do you want to go change your lamp out every couple years? Metal halide, LPS, HPS, even compact fluorescent lamps need to be changed out quite often. LEDs provide 10+ years of life expectancy and make a solar lighting system practically maintenance free.

Environmentally Friendly

Solar provides power for applications without using any other source of energy other than the sun, and LEDs use that energy to provide lighting. How perfect is that!

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting

Eco-Friendly Holiday Tree Ideas

Posted by SEPCO

12/13/11 9:30 AM

So I have been reading a lot of article on eco-friendly ideas for your holiday trees and I thought to put them all in one spot. Go read the original articles Real vs Fake Christmas Trees and A Truly Eco-Friendly Christmas Tree and let me know your thoughts.

Real Trees

Real Christmas TreeReal trees seem to be very popular and why wouldn’t they. They make the house smell great, they add that little bit of additional charm, and there is no need to store them throughout the year, great for people in apartments or smaller homes. However, even though they are farmed for just this purpose, it is still taking down a tree for the short term entertainment purpose. On top of that, it takes anywhere from six to 12 years for one tree to grow to the sizes sold in stores. They are also play a huge part in depletion of water, introducing more pesticides and herbicides into the environment, and use a lot of energy to maintain the crop and transport the trees adding more CO2’s to the atmosphere. Then again, they are renewable since they grow back, they provide clean air and a habitat for wild animals, and provide jobs. Some tips the original article states is buying organic trees, buy from a small, local farm to reduce transportation, and recycle the tree.

Artificial Trees

Artificial Christmas TreeArtificial trees are popular due to their smaller cost and reusability. However, they take a lot of petroleum to make the plastics in the tree and again your have the carbon dioxide-creating energy that is required to make and transport them. They also cannot be recycled, so once you are sick of them, you have to throw them away or sell them at to the next family. They are also produced primarily inChina; some scary things to read there like lead poisoning and such. And to top it all off, there is the issue of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) that can be dangerous to human health and the environment throughout its entire life due to poisonous chemicals that are released when it is just sitting there and should never be burned due to even more toxins that will be released. Okay, so fake trees are starting to look not so great.

Live Trees

Live Christmas TreeLive trees can be in the home during the holidays and then replanted outside after the New Year. However, the types of trees used are dormant during the winter and only last in that state for about a week inside a nice warm home. If it wakes up and begins to grow again, it will not survive the harsh weather conditions outside. It also takes transitioning into and out again from the home. This may not be an option for many people, but is a great one if you have the time to nurture the tree, read more about how to care for a living Christmas tree.

 

 

Rent a Tree

Finally, you can rent a tree. Yes, you heard me right, rent a tree. A lot of cities across theUSare renting living trees. The tree is potted and still growing. They will deliver the tree to you, you use it for decorations, and then after the holiday they will come pick it back up. There are a few rules like no tinsel, keep it watered, and don’t put it near the fireplace or heater.

Happy Holidays

Wishing everyone and thier loved ones a wonderful holiday!

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Topics: Green Ideas, Holiday

Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 3

Posted by SEPCO

12/8/11 9:30 AM

Hydropower PlantHydropower has been used for many centuries for many different applications including milling, moving water, irrigation, etc., but in the 1878 the first hydroelectric power generator was developed by William George Armstrong. By 1881 the Schoelkopf Power Station No. 1 near Niagara Falls started to produce power followed by the Edison hydroelectric power plant in 1882. The development of hydroelectric power began to take off. By 1886 there were a total of 45 hydroelectric power plants in the US and Canada and by 1889 there were 200 in the US alone. That’s a lot of power plants!


Hydroelectricity is generated in many different ways, but all use the force of water moving to turn propellers or turbines to generate electricity. These turbines generate electricity through a generator and the power can be fed to the grid or to a specific application. Seems pretty simple.

There is a downside to hydroelectric power generation. There can be great damage to ecosystems and land areas around a dam. Siltation can cause a dam to fail and the flow shortage due to a drought can cause the amount of water available to be less than normal causing a lower power generation. Then you have methane gasses that are released in tropical areas, having to relocate those who live in the projected area of development, and failures that can occur.

Hydropower DiagramSo during the industrial revolution, hydroelectricity was developed and put into place, but maybe not in the best of ways. But what if we had taken it to the next level? What if we had found ways to maximize the power output so that other forms of power generation weren’t needed? Or what if we had learned how to generate electricity earlier then the late 1800’s? Or made it safer so the issues that are involved in hydroelectric power aren’t as great or even exist at all?

Would tidal power be in use in more areas? I think so. The tides move all around the world so no coastal area would be without power. What about rivers? We may have been able to develop safer and smaller forms of power generators that could reside within the ecosystem instead of taking over the area changing the flow of the river.

History of Hydropower DOE

Hydroelectricity

History of Hydropower & Water at Work 

 

Want to read Part 1? Check out Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 1

Or how about Part 2? Check out Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 2 

Here's the latest Part 4: Check out Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 4

 

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Topics: Green Ideas

Subdivision Mailbox Solar Lighting to Show Green Initiative

Posted by SEPCO

12/6/11 9:30 AM

Subdivision Mailbox Solar LightingMany subdivisions provide mailbox clusters for thier condo owners. These mailbox clusters, usually under a roof structure, require lighting for the security of the residences. Power is not always available where these mailbox clusters are located and the cost of trenching and running electric to the area can be a costly expense. Solar power is the perfect option.

DR Horton uses our solar lighting systems for their subdivision mailbox clusters in many developments. These subdivision mailbox areas have the solar lighting mounted below the canopy structure with the solar panel mounted to the top of the roof.

The solar lights for the mailboxes can either run dusk to dawn, dusk for a certain number of hours, or have an occupancy sensor set up so that the lights only need to come on when someone is near the mailbox cluster. The time needed to run the light determines the size system needed for the project.

Subdivision Mailbox Solar Powered LightingSubdivision mailbox solar lighting not only shows the development's green initiative, but also provides cost savings by not having to pay for electric at the site while benefiting from renewable energy and tax savings from installing solar power for lighting.

Solar lighting for subdivision mailboxes does not always need to be installed during development. The solar lighting system does not need any additional wiring or trenching and can be installed many years after the main structure has been put in place. Instead all that is needed is the fixture, solar power system, and mounting hardware to be installed directly on the structure and let the sun do the rest of the work.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, SEPCO News & Information, Building Structure Lighting

Top 6 Documentaries on Climate Change: Need for Green Energy

Posted by SEPCO

12/1/11 9:30 AM

We've all heard about global warming and the need to develop green, renewable energies.  We are in the midst of an oil crisis that is destroying our ecosystem and leaving permanent scars on the Earth.  It's easy to hear something like this and feel that these problems are too complex to do anything about, and besides, someone else will figure out the solution.  Right?

Below are six informative, interesting, and inspirational documentaries on the topic of climate change and environmental destruction, and how it is possible for just one person to make a positive impact.  They explore the reasons we need to let go of our dependence on foreign oil and start embracing renewable energy sources.

An Inconvenient Truth (2006, directed by Davis Guggenheim)

What better place to start than with An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's documentary surrounding his crusade to spread awareness on the topic of global warming.   In a clear and concise way he explains how our abuse of natural resources is polluting the Eco-system and causing irreparable damage.  Mr. Gore puts to bed the rumors that global warming is made up propaganda and highlights the fact that this is a worldwide issue we need to work together to solve.  As an added bonus, there is a beautiful song by Melissa Etheridge entitled “I Need to Wake Up”, written specifically for this documentary.

Addicted to Oil: Thomas L. Friedman Reporting (2006, directed by Kenneth Levis)

Thomas L. Friedman is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the New York Times.  In this documentary, he explains how our dependency on foreign oil is putting our national security at risk, and why it's so important to switch to renewable energy sources as soon as possible.  He also talks about the economic, tax and environmental incentives of various green technologies such as solar power and wind turbines.

Wake Up, Freak Out: Then Get a Grip (2008, directed by Leo Murray)

This is a short animation film that doesn't beat around the bush.  It operates on the premise  that we are in a far worse situation than we have realized and that we may be headed straight for catastrophic destruction.  Yes it's bleak, but maybe an “in your face” film is exactly what those who are in denial need.  It isn't completely fatalistic however, as near the end the film opens up the possibility that we still have time to prevent global disaster, but the time to act is now. 

Fuel (2008, directed by Josh Tickell)

While the last documentary may have left you feeling a little depressed, this next one is more upbeat.  Josh Tickell spent eleven years traveling around the world, looking for solutions on how to completely reduce out dependence on foreign oil.  He sees a strong correlation between the environment and our economy, and believes that the high rates of unemployment and spiraling debt that we are seeing are linked to our quenchless demand for energy.  Mr. Tickell explains how we can create jobs and boost the economy through the complete implementation of green energy-sources here at home. 

No Impact Man: The Documentary (2009, directed by Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein)

Follow the Beaven Family as they attempt to live a whole year whilst leaving no carbon footprint.  This might seem feasible if they lived on an organic farm inCalifornia, but they reside in the heart ofNew York City.  They adapt to the challenge and make changes such as only eating locally grown food, not using any electricity or appliances, and riding bikes everywhere they go.  Curious about how this quest to produce zero environmental impact went?  Watch the documentary.

The 11th Hour (2007, directed by Leila and Nadia Conners)

Leonardo DiCaprio is the man behind this documentary.  In it, he interviews over fifty different scientists, politicians, and environmental activists in order to get  their various viewpoints.  They present arguments and a wide array of data on  issues such as deforestation, extinction, and global warming.  Although there is not just one solution to halt the destruction of our precious environment, the general consensus is that we all must work together to get it done.

Guest post by Sarah Parker

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Topics: Guest Post, Green Ideas

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