December 20, 2011 • Emerging Technology, Energy Generation, Energy Innovation, Perspectives

One field of heliostats to rule them all…

by Allie Heiniger

Archimedes was not joking around.

Once upon a time in second century Greece, there lived a man named Archimedes who invented all sorts of crazy smart things. One of those things was a heat-ray weapon that was supposedly used to destroy enemy Roman ships. Although the details are not perfectly clear, historians say that Archimedes had 60 soldiers hold up bronze-coated shields aimed at the same small spot on each ship, igniting it within 10 minutes. Pretty impressive stuff for a guy whose last nerd words were supposedly, “Do not disturb my circles.” continue

December 2, 2011 • Electricity, Energy Generation, Natural Gas, Perspectives

A decade later: Ripples from Enron

by Dominic Barbato

The infamous (and now defunct) Enron logo.

It is difficult to believe 10 years have passed since Enron filed for bankruptcy on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2001. The company was America’s darling. Like the Titanic, Enron was thought to be unsinkable. It seemed to do no wrong; it was a company that could not fail. At the height of its power in 2001, Enron ranked seventh on the Fortune 500 with revenues topping $100 billion, a status earning it the moniker of “America’s Most Innovative Company” six consecutive years by Fortune magazine. The company’s business model was heralded to be a paradigm shift in business, a poster child for the new economy and modern markets, a firm that relied more on the development of intellectual capital and technology than on the creation of brick-and-mortar, physical assets.
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November 4, 2011 • Emerging Technology

Developing countries, part I

by Ann Barczak

It’s that time of year again.  The weather is turning colder, football is in full swing, and the kids are back in a school routine. Once school starts in our house each fall, the crazy begins. No matter how much preparation goes in the night before, mornings are chaos. There is fighting, moodiness, confusion, yelling… . Breakfast is every man for himself and resembles a scene from Lord of the Flies. The dogs circle the kitchen, desperately hoping that the baby is just sleepy enough to drop his waffle on the floor. A child screams, “Where’s my belt?” Well, it’s right where it should be of course – looped around the bathroom door by one brother to keep another trapped inside. continue

November 2, 2011 • Current Events, Emerging Technology, Energy Innovation

A “sticky” note on tar sands

by Allie Heiniger

Tar sands (also known as oil sands) has become a topic of conversation in the energy procurement world these days. Despite its recent popularity, most people don’t understand what it is, how it is used and its awesome history. continue

October 19, 2011 • Current Events, Energy's Lighter Side, Sustainability

Driving past windmills on the way to the Windy City

by Roger Durham

My wife and I were on our way to Chicago for a long weekend. We were taking in the sites, wondering if we should stop in Lafayette on the way back to see Purdue University’s campus when we came around a bend in I-65 and saw something completely disorienting. Actually, the disorientation was not immediate.

“Look,” my wife said, “there are some windmills over there, giant windmills.” We made this trip to Chicago a

Close Encounters

couple of years earlier and didn’t see any windmills. It was like they had just appeared overnight. They were pretty cool looking, for the first couple of miles. But those few windmills become dozens and those dozens became hundreds. They were spinning slowly, majestically and some of them were very close to the interstate. continue

October 11, 2011 • Current Events, Emerging Technology, Energy Innovation, Sustainability

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8….. Light!

by Hannah Miller

The Fibonacci Spiral

Someone recently said the words “Fibonacci” and “solar panels” to me, and my ears immediately pricked up. I’ve always been intrigued by the Fibonacci sequence and my first thought was of the PBS show Square One and its segment, MathNet, where I first learned about it.

But this decade’s reference to Fibonacci isn’t fiction. A seventh grader from New York named Aidan recently won the 2011 Young Naturalist Award from the American Museum of Natural History for his work identifying how the Fibonacci sequence can help increase electricity output of solar panels. continue

September 12, 2011 • Current Events, Energy Efficiency, Green Buildings

A look at government spending

by Jackie Cobb

Given the recent debt crisis and the ensuing focus on government spending, I figured it would only be appropriate for the Summit Energy Watercooler blog to chime in on the topic as well.

While the debt ceiling debate finally yielded a compromise at the 11th hour, it has become clear that it certainly didn’t provide us with an end-all-be-all solution for the issue of US financial stability. (I’d argue there can’t be just one solution, but that’s for another post.) continue

August 17, 2011 • Energy Efficiency, Sustainability, Travel & Leisure

Happy “low carbon” summer holidays!

by Sara Hoefkens

About two weeks ago, as I was sipping from a cocktail on a white-pebbled beach in a Greek bay with crystal blue clear water, I started thinking about the enormous amount of energy that is used every year in making people’s summer holidays happen. Holidays account for a surprising amount of the energy we use each year, with flights, driving, hotel stays and added extras like boat trips all contributing to our carbon footprint. continue

August 12, 2011 • Electricity, Emerging Technology, Energy Efficiency, Energy Innovation, Perspectives, Sustainability

Charge it up! Battery power of the future

by AmyHiggs

When I was but a wee tot, I really, really wanted a pink, battery-powered Barbie car. I coveted. Oh, yes. My parents, however, had sense enough not to shell out $400 for a piece of plastic that zipped along at 0.2 miles an hour and that I likely would have plowed into the family dog as soon as I took the wheel. I had to settle for a “manual” toy car that I powered myself through a hole in the floorboard — a la “The Flintstones.” I probably got going faster in that thing than I would have in the Barbie-mobile. I definitely got more exercise!

I hadn’t thought about those childhood toys in years, until I listened to an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air back in June. The host talked to the senior editor for Popular Science magazine, Seth Fletcher, about his new book, “Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars and the New Lithium Economy.” Fletcher believes that “advanced lithium batteries could hold the key to an environmentally sustainable, oil-independent future.” Read more here. continue

August 10, 2011 • Electricity, Emerging Technology, Perspectives

On the road with eco plastics

by Sarah McKee

Jeff Bridges as "The Dude"

My car (a ’99 Honda Accord with 175,000+ miles) has been paid off for several months now and with all the new entries in the market, I’m officially shopping for a new car.   (The Dude, Jeff Bridges, is quite convincing about the new Hyndai Sonata.)  Fellow WaterCooler blogger, Eric Bickel is also making me see fuel economy in a whole new way.  Now, the question is, do I go hybrid and put into practice a personal sustainability strategy? continue

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