Green Energy

I am Windspired.

When Studio 804 completed the Springfield house two years ago next month, one of the things that I really liked about the home was the vertical wind turbine in the back yard. I liked the idea, of having something that reduced my carbon footprint, used green energy, and put electricity back into the grid when possible.

Last night when I was sitting on the back deck behind my house, I kept thinking we should go for it and install the same kind of wind turbine. We have more than enough yard space, and while it might be expensive the environmental impact and long-term cost savings out  weigh the initial up front costs.

The unit at the Springfield house is manufactured by Windspire, and is designed to generate clean renewable energy and help offset your overall energy use. The residential unit stands 30 feet tall and is designed to fit within urban areas. The size and height of the unit, would be completely invisible from the street if I placed it about 50 feet behind my house in our field. The Windspire generates 2000 kWh of energy per year with winds as low as 8.5 miles per hour. This sounds perfect for us.

The residential unit requires a small foundation of 2 feet by 7 feet in size, and is virtually silent with an audible noise level of 6dBA in a 15 mile per hour wind. And since the Windspire rotates at lower speeds than most turbines it is more visible to flying birds. (I don’t want to install anything that might take out the songbirds in my yard.) The Windspire really looks amazing in really life. Like a kinetic piece of sculpture, with a satin silver finish. When I first saw it at the Springfield house I really thought it was a sculpture, not a wind turbine. That is a definite plus  as far as I am concerned.

Right now U.S. homeowners are eligible for a 30% federal tax credit off the total cost of the turbines including the  installation and available local rebates as much as $4,800 in some states.



Bloom Box: a power plant for the home

Today, K.R. Sridhar a former NASA employee will officially unveil what he and his company Bloom Energy have been working on in virtual secrecy for the last 4 years. The Bloom Energy power box.

With the help of an estimated $400 million in private funding, Bloom Energy took technology from an oxygen generator meant for a scrapped NASA Mars program, and converted them into refrigerator sized fuel cell power units that are currently being used by corporate clients like Walmart, FedEx, Ebay, and Google.

The corporate-sized cells cost $700,000 to $800,000 and are installed at 20 customers you’ve already heard of including FedEx and Wal-mart — Google was first to this green energy party, using its Bloom Boxes to power a data center for the last 18 months. Ebay has installed its boxes on the front lawn of its San Jose location. It estimates to receive almost 15% of its energy needs from Bloom, saving about $100,000 since installing its five boxes 9 months ago

Bloom Energy’s design feeds oxygen into one side of a cell while fuel (natural gas, bio gas from landfill waste, solar, etc) is supplied to the other side to provide the chemical reaction required for power. The cells themselves are inexpensive ceramic disks painted with a top-secret green “ink” on one side and a black “ink” on the other. The disks are separated by a cheap metal alloy, instead of more precious metals like platinum, and stacked into a cube of varying capabilities — a stack of 64 can power a small business like Starbucks, or more importantly, a small home. According to Bloom, two units could power a large American household greater than 3000 square feet. Pretty impressive don’t you think.

Bloom makes about one box a day at the moment and believes that within 5 to 10 years it can drive down the cost to about $3,000 to make it suitable for home use.

I can’t wait for the official announcement and press release to see where this going. I think this is one of the more exciting green energy announcements from the last few years. Last Sunday there was a full interview with Bloom Energy on 60 Minutes. You can see the video here.