Physical Science Blog

Bringing Electricity Home

September 9, 2008

It can be a little frustrating to know that our excess energy consumption is almost certainly driving up atmospheric CO2 concentrations, contributing to global warming, and the only thing that we can really do to help is to cut back.  For example, we might reduce air and road travel,  not eat food shipped across long distances and switch to energy-saving light bulbs.

That’s why I’m always on the look out for micro-level technology that could potentially enable the average Joe (or Jane) to actually generate clean energy.

Two new developments in micro-level energy production showed up on the web this past week that look promising. The first, reported on the website Planetsave, is about a regional energy company that is exploring the economics of turning residential rooftop space into energy-producing solar cell arrays. The twist is that the company would rent the space from homeowners and the wattage generated would feed back into the energy grid rather than to the house where it was generated.  The company, Duke Energy of North Carolina, thinks that this approach may be more economical than building new coal-fired power plants.

The second development is a nearly silent wind turbine for the home, called the Energy Ball, produced by Swedish company HomeEnergy. The turbine is unique (maybe not?) in that it uses a physics principle known as the Venturi Effect to increase its efficiency. (The Venturi effect is basically the observation that a fluid or gas pushed through a long, thin tube moves faster than through a short, fat one.)  Apparently, you can plug this thing right into any free outlet in your house.  Unfortunately, you aren’t going to find these in the clearance rack at IKEA–entry level models start at $4,600.

Solar cells and wind turbines are all good and great for homeowners, but what about us apartment dwellers? Stay tuned. . .

Related on Scienceline:

-Harnessing wind power in the city.

-Choosing green power feels good, but does it matter?


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