TED Conversations

Closing Statement from Tore Land, Director, GE Ecomagination Challenge

We at GE want to give our heartfelt thanks to the TED community for participating in this conversation. Your ideas and insights -- ranging from home automation and discussions about a two-way grid to apps and gaming methods that can drive behavior change -- have been fascinating to read and stimulating to respond to.

On a personal note, as the host of this conversation, I want to thank you for your participation and fresh thinking here. And on behalf of the whole ecomagination Challenge team, we look forward to working with you to help imagine and build technology that can meet these pressing environmental challenges.

GE believes widespread adoption of clean energy technology will start in the home. And we believe the second phase of the ecomagination Challenge will help drive that change. We invite you to continue to follow this project via our website:


We're currently reviewing the submissions to the challenge and, together with our partners, will evaluate the most innovative. We'll be announcing the winners next month -- stay tuned for the announcement!

Home energy is a critical global challenge, and we want the TED Community to know we are committed to building -- and scaling up -- innovative solutions.

Thank you for letting us pick your brains!

Tore Land
Director, GE ecomagination Challenge

  • Mar 15 2011: How much is one hour of sunlight on three square meter worth? Let’s see, if we’re talking about electricity and we say that electricity is worth $0.10 per KWH than 3KWH’s are worth $0.30. The problem is that PV panels have a radiant energy conversion rate of about 20% or less so three hours of sunlight on one square meter of a solar panel is worth less than $0.06

    How about heat? How much is 3 hours of sunlight on one square meter of a solar collector worth if we’re talking about heat? Well 1KWH = 3400 BTU so 3KWH = 10,200 BTU. Since one gallon of fuel oil contains 150,000 BTU 10,200 BTU’s are the equivalent of .07 gallons of fuel oil.

    Now if fuel oil is selling for $2.00/gallon which it soon will be the value 10,200 BTU’s is about $0.14. You might think this is an unfair assumption since we're not taking into account the heat conversion efficiency factor like we did with the solar panel. I’m glad to see you’re paying attention and you are right about this. The heat transfer efficiency of a solar hot water system is between 50% and 70% the same as oil burner heat transfer efficiency. Since the heat transfer efficiency for an oil burner is about the same as solar collector and the price of oil is $2.00/gallon than the value of 3 hours of sunlight on one square meter is worth actually $0.14.

    How about the value of heat energy over the period of one year on a roof (20’ x 50’) tilted south at a steep pitch designed to maximize heat gain?

    The surface area of the roof is 1000 sq ft or 95m2.
    The solar energy available (for north central USA ) over the period one year on one square meter is 1500KWH. So on 95m2 we’d have:95x1500 or 142,500KWH or 484,500,000 BTU or the fuel oil equivalent of 3,230 gallons of #2 fuel oil. At $2.00/gallon our solar roof could save us as much as $6,460/yr. If half this energy is used for heating and half is used for electric power we could meet the residential requirements for energy independence.
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    Feb 13 2011: Data-driven decision-making for efficiency is best, and I think most elegant, when it helps people look at the entire system and target the cheapest, lowest tech, simplest way to achieve low energy use goals tailored to local climate conditions. Example: When designing my house on a limited budget, I had to chose between more insulation vs more thermal mass, high efficiency solar thermal arrays vs old used ones, high tech windows vs. regular double pane, etc. In the end, I found data from a nearby weather station with a 1history of hourly temp, precip, and solar radiation. With those data I realized I could meet 85-90% of my heating needs with well placed cheaper windows, correct overhangs, concrete floors for thermal mass, and cheap used solar thermal panels to heat the radiant floors. Expensive super insulated walls, super tight 'passive' construction, and high tech windows and panels, while nice, were not necessary, and I ended up with an extremely comfortable, highly efficient, home for literally a third the price of one you find in a green home magazine. The data on local site conditions allowed me to look at the entire system as a whole in the context of local climate and figure out what was most important to focus on to meet my goals. I have rarely seen others be able do this easily and intuitively when making potentially costly decisions about how to 'go green' with their home... The focus usually is high-tech solutions (e.g., solar PV) first, but really using data to find low tech solutions is infinitely more elegant, fun, and interesting. www.swall-institute.org
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      Feb 14 2011: Eric, this is fascinating. It seems like there could be real value in synthesizing available data, like what you found, for various communities and providing guidelines for consumers to advise their energy efficient upgrades. The key to this would be to make it widely available to the public. This could help give consumers customized, actionable advice on how to make their homes more efficient at the greatest value. Does anyone know if services like this are already available?
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        Feb 16 2011: Hi Tore, that's a great question, and it's very relevant to what Rodrigo and Ido mention about solar thermal. Notice the examples they use are Australia, Spain, and Israel - areas with lots of sun. If they were in northern Germany or Denmark it might be better focus on very tight construction and super insulation, eliminate the need for radiant heat, and then it would require high-tech, expensive, vacuum tube solar thermal panels for shower water. A different solution for the exact same house.

        So site data are key. I used publicly available RAWS (remote automated weather station) data for my site in California (http://www.raws.dri.edu/wraws/ccaF.html), but in theory you could have a simple app that gives people great summary information on seasonal patterns of solar radiation and temperatures for their specific site.I also used a great free online tool to calculate the specific window sizes and overhangs for my site: http://www.susdesign.com/tools.php But then it would be nice to go one step further and, for that climate, estimate the optimal balance of insulation, thermal mass, and window glazing on each aspect.

        It seems that now there should be simple smartphone apps for that kind of thing but I don't know of one off hand... If anyone does, please let me know :)

        What I mention above is focused on new construction, but could also be used for retrofitting or renovations by adding constraints of the existing structure.
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    Mar 15 2011: Speaking of key global issues, a few minutes ago, word came from Japan that the third GE designed nuclear reactor might breach the reactor vessel and melt-down. We'll see. It's impossible not to mention the elephant in the room. I'd say GE needs to re-imagine its engineering.
    • Mar 15 2011: And is NOW is the time to have a real conversation about Thorium Reactors? There are huge advantages over Nuclear plants to using Thorium plants. My Web look into this brings up some very interesting information.
      Would be great to hear from those who REALLY know. How about you GE?
      Below is from Jack Lifton in a Resource Investor magazine in 2009.
      1. Reactors using thorium in their fuel can be constructed so that they produce little or no products useful for explosive type (fission- or fusion-based) nuclear weapons.
      2. Thorium reactors previously built and currently near operation, or in the design stage, produce far less radioactive waste material than the presently used uranium and/or plutonium based reactors.
      3. Thorium is more abundant in the earth’s crust by a factor of between three and four than uranium, and coincidentally is also found in recoverable (as a byproduct) grades and quantities in the United States, Canada, Australia, the Republic of South Africa, and the People’s Republic of China (that is, the mainland). It has not yet been mined as a primary ore (more on this in a moment) but is rather always produced as a byproduct of either uranium or rare-earth metals primary production.
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    Mar 13 2011: I'm not an expert in any field, but one day I just had an idea of using Earths magnetic field as an alternative energy source. Even that it's weak I think using special magnets and magnetic shielding it might be possible to build these under every new house. Similar system as the wind energy mils have, based on rotation. And they might actually last decades without maintaining. Just a thought...
  • Feb 28 2011: I think the bottom line is the fact that consumers have no way of measuring their energy usage, and therefore managing their energy costs. If you're not measuring, you're guessing. Give people a way to know exactly what is pulling what load and when, and I believe you will see large changes in behavior.
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      Mar 2 2011: Just bought a hybrid car that displays instantaneous gas mileage. It makes me try harder to get better economy. I agree with you that if we had quick and easy measurement of home energy use, many if not all of us would try to minimize use and cost. Tying a display into the cable or satellite TV would put it at our finger
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      Mar 5 2011: We have that in AU. A little wireless meter that sits on my fridge (or anywhere) which displays the homes current electricity consumption and the associated hourly cost with monthly cost totals. While it is novel and interesting for the first quarter (billing period), there was no noticeable difference in our costs or use. So now it sits there and is rarely looked at.

      I believe changing consumption behavior is a little more difficult than that. Simplifying energy control in the home would make more sense to me. Such as a simple switch connected to your key, like motels, that turns off all none essential electrical use (stand by) while you are not in the home. I am essentially lazy and prefer that than trying to reach behind the furniture to switch off all the power points in my home.

      Further to that, appliance manufacturers need to make appliances that do not use any electricity when they are not used. Seriously, how many clocks do we need in our homes.?
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      Mar 6 2011: This ability to monitor home energy use is just coming out and I think as it scales up will radically change use. In Maine where I live, the power company just installed smart meters on 95% of customers in the state. They will soon roll out the self-monitoring service, like google power meter. With this data and feedback power use will begin to radically change.

      Pairing this with smart grids and appliances that speak to one another so that energy use is dispersed so that renewable resources can power more of our power use and there is less on-demand need for burning coal, will certainly move us forward.
  • Mar 15 2011: Here in america 20+ of our energy needs could be gained by conservation alone. Cut waste!
  • Mar 11 2011: So the mega-corporation GE is now, like other major corporations, trying to bank off the alternative energy market. Wow, I didn't see that one coming. Why don't we take a look at GE's track record?

    From Wiki: "GE has a history of some of its activities giving rise to large-scale air and water pollution. Based on year 2000 data,[36] researchers at the Political Economy Research Institute listed the corporation as the fourth-largest corporate producer of air pollution in the United States, with more than 4.4 million pounds per year (2,000 Tonnes) of toxic chemicals released into the air.[37] GE has also been implicated in the creation of toxic waste. According to EPA documents, only the United States Government, Honeywell, and Chevron Corporation are responsible for producing more Superfund toxic waste sites.[38] "

    From Wiki, "In 2010, Forbes ranked GE as the world's second largest company after JPMorgan Chase,[5] based on a formula that compared the total sales, profits, assets, and market value of several multinational companies.[6]"

    I propose we stop supporting mega conglomerates like GE, who are simply using alternative energy as a front for business as usual. Rather than finding ways of producing more energy, and lining GE's pockets, I propose we all start finding ways of reducing our energy consumption. I no longer heat or cool my house unless it's totally freezing, hey add some layers of clothes. I try to reuse and make as many things myself as I can, without purchasing new products from major corporations.

    I wonder whether I will get a response, or if this will be deleted.
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    Mar 5 2011: There are already a host of emerging technical solutions and new ones coming along almost daily. I saw your panel discussion at CES and have visited with one of your co-panelists since - Neil McPhail from Best Buy. I think the big gap in getting this market and movement started is in the business model as presented to the consumer. I feel like the current model as a "do it yourself" home ROI based model is too hard to grasp and uncompelling.for most people.

    Consider an alternative lens/approach. The home budget is owned and operated by women, not men. The DIY model is very male-centric. I think we need to re-engineer the consumer presentation at the retail level and target women. This will mean that we need to reframe the model in terms that motivate and inspire women. At a minimum a transformative home energy solution will involve both home decision makers.

    Here's a nugget to chew on - discovered by an all female design team at Volvo - "Designing to meet the needs of women will exceed the needs of men." Assume its true. So if the home energy business model is designed for female home budgeters,it has the chance to meet all needs.

    I discussed this with McPhail and his colleagues at BB and they are intrigued. In fact they may see a way to re-configure the presentation through the Geek Squad and their Magnolia "store-in'store" concept to re-present home energy management.

    Love to chart more. I can be found through the TED community.

    Mark Dawes
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      Mar 9 2011: These are interesting points you raise. You are right that home energy solutions will involve both home decision makers. If a DIY model won't appeal to all decision makers, what kind of approach do you think will appeal more to everyone? Do others agree with this assessment? By the way, unfortunately I was unable to attend CES but I believe my colleague David McCalpin (GM, Home Energy) was on the panel you attended. I will make sure he sees your comments as well.
      • Mar 11 2011: I agree with Mark's idea! While the household management is generally a female domain, energy management nowadays could not be more male-oriented.
        I am no specialist, but maybe instead of (or along with) gadgets and control, solutions should be marketed around empowerment, durability, sustainability, health, savings, user-friendliness, flexibility, multitasking, even decoration or home-madeness (such as my own compost as opposed to my own remote control of the sprinklers in the house)...
        Also, women are probably more likely to cooperate in projects to pool and share resources. This could be used for developing a completely different line of products and solutions, not home-centered, but community-centered.
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    Mar 3 2011: My ideas are simplistic. All new homes should be built to be as self sufficient as possible with current technology. With excellent solar panels for every roof and compostable toilets all homes should be built so that aging infrastructures do not need to be replaced to accomodate new building projects. While this is not practical for highrises it is now possible for single family dwellings. Human waste should be processed where it originates and it should be turned back into the degrading soil once it is safe. Brown water should be reused for landscaping etc. or cleaned and recycled.
  • Feb 16 2011: Feedback, feedback, feedback. The simplest and most effective method to encourage conservation in the home is to give people clear & immediate feedback about their usage. There have been many studies showing that people will modify their consumption habits if they see the hidden costs, patterns of use, & distributed impacts embedded in their lifestyle (eg the Prius Effect, the work of IDEO & Ford, etc...). This requires energy & resource providers to be transparent about costs and usage, and requires a simple but powerful interface to see the effects of energy consumption.
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    Feb 16 2011: Build a fat refrigerator. Imagine a beer cooler with 6 inches of insulation instead of 1inch. How long would the ice last? All week, right?

    Refrigerators are the 2nd biggest energy hogs in the home, next to AC. A thick-walled frig filled with cheap ridig-foam insulation should cut energy consumption in half. Next, install a smaller motor in the TOP of the frig - not the bottom- just like grandma used to have. Heat rises, so put the motor at the top. (maybe the motor unit should go on the outside wall ?) A fat frig might hold less, but a smaller cubic inch frig is a small trade-off for a machine that runs on pennies per month. If you can cut the household energy consumption by half, let's say, you could cut national consumption by half. We burn a lot of imported oil generating electricity to run those energy hog refrigerators. This is a better idea that GE should have re-engineered in the 20th century.

    Conservation works(!) and it cost nearly nothing.
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      Feb 17 2011: EXCELLENT IDEA. I also think a better insulated fridge will need smaller coils for the heat exchanger and then the coils could sit on the top of the fridge instead of the back...allowing more space for more
      insulation in the back...Could actually have your cake and eat it too.....(cold)

      Also, the insulation doesn't HAVE to be uniform. The freezer could have more.
      • Feb 22 2011: i like the idea but i think it could use more building, ive been on the idea of sub terrain homes but i realize the drawbacks and know this isn't the answer i live in Florida and dont run the AC because of the window construction of the house but i think maybe having a wall back by dirt (a kind of like having a side of the house being sub terrain-en a sense) and building the fridge as part of the house thus being more insulated by the earth and the cooling unit not only be for the fridge but make it the cooling unit for also the house as well. as an added bonus the house would naturally be cooler from the one side being buried/backed by dirt
    • Feb 17 2011: If you're willing to pay a bit more, then making the box out of vacuum panels instead of stuffing them with
      insulation would allow for both reasonable size/capacity and good insulation.
    • P C

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      Feb 22 2011: A LOT of energy is wasted converted electricity back to thermal energy. Better yet, use replaceable Vacuum Insulated Panels. They have the highest insulation ratings available. I'd recommend using them not only for refrigerators, but something along those lines for hot water tanks and pipes as well. Imagine the insulation rating you'd get putting a hot water tank in a thermos?
    • Feb 22 2011: A smaller motor does not neccessarily equate to energy savings.

      For example a smaller compressor would take longer to move the same volume of heated refrigerant, this means it would take longer to move the same amount of heat as a larger motor. In short this means longer running times which could actually increase energy usage in some cases.

      As for putting the motors on the top instead of the bottom, they would then be subjected to the heat given off by the condenser coil which can actually harm their operation efficiency so that too may not be as beneficial as it seems at first glance.

      When it comes to insulation more is not necessarily more. Quality, even if that means a greater cost, is far more beneficial than thick insulation.
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      Mar 9 2011: If this is paired with solar power it makes the comsumption almost zero in most parts of the world, this goes for both refrigiators and even for airconditioners.
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    Feb 14 2011: Eric Berlow's emphasis on data-driven decision-making is spot on. Imagine a world with data-driven approaches to the design and operation of homes that are sustainable on two fronts: the building's carbon footprint and the building's impact on human health. People in the developing world spend 90% of their lives indoors, and a significant portion of this time is in their home (sleeping). One groundbreaking idea for reducing residential energy use is to link - using empirical data - sustainable design strategies to human health. Evidence-based design strategies pointing towards a healthier environment and a reduced carbon footprint will motivate home builders and home owners. Preliminary data gathered by the Biology and the Built Environment (BioBE) Center suggest this dual-pronged approach is possible. http://biology.uoregon.edu/biobe/
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      Feb 14 2011: Jessica, this is a very smart approach. Have you seen any innovative approaches to promoting both human health and environmental sustainability that are already in market? Which do you think consumers are more cognizant of; the home's impact on human health or the environment? Which do you think they take steps towards addressing first?
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        Feb 14 2011: My sense is that consumers are more cognizant of their own personal health than the environment, and that homeowners will prioritize health over a low carbon footprint. In many situations, however, these go hand-in-hand. If consumers recognize this they will put their dollar on both.

        Innovative approaches already in the market are being advanced primarily in the health care sector (e.g. http://www.noharm.org/all_regions/issues/building/). The BioBE Center is collaborating with health care facilities to gather quantitative data on how sustainable design strategies like natural light and natural ventilation influence the built environment microbiome – the trillions of microbes that occupy buildings and ultimately affect human health.

        I believe it is possible to bring these data-driven approaches to the home. I envision a cost-effective, hand-held sampling device that residents can use to sample their home ‘microbiome’ under different energy use scenarios. We have already started a conversation with Think2Build (http://www.think2build.com/) about the potential development of such a device. What do you think about this idea, of being able to quantify shifts in energy consumption and the DNA blueprint of a building in tandem?
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          Feb 16 2011: I agree that both issues are related even if consumers prioritize health over carbon footprint as a motivating factor. In fact, addressing carbon footprint issues over time can have a beneficial impact on health by, for example, reducing emissions resulting in a more sustainable environment. I think the hand-held device you have outlined sounds like a very smart and innovative approach. It does a good job of showing the correlation between a more energy efficient home being a healthier home.
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    Feb 13 2011: Agree with Arthur Zard's approach to home automation - but I want my smart app to be as invisible to me as possible!! I want to trust the provider that i purchased my energy supply from to have made the most ecologically sensible choices for me! For example - the IBM smart house project that is being showcased at IBM Zurich appears to be obsessed with giving users choices about the brilliant energy efficient algorithms that the house's software crunches to provide the most economic outcome for the user - the software pretty much phones the occupant up to ask them whether you they want the pre-loaded washing to start a cycle at off peak rates ...As a user I don't care about having to make the choices!! I want these domestic decisions to be invisible!! Yet - I totally get that energy choices are ultimately a political decision and that as a citizen I should be engaged with - so maybe give me a little bit of choice - like a DIY energy portfolio to choose from that I can wear as a logo on my smart phone like a designer label - but one that doesn't nag me about every single mundane decision that computers could be making ... I have STUFF to do!!
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      Feb 14 2011: Rachel, I love this perspective because it brings user-centered design to the forefront. Those of us who design products for the web live and breathe user-centered design, because we have to. A product that elegantly meets its users' unspoken needs will succeed; you'll see it in your metrics. But if you lose sight of your users' intent, or mis-judge their needs, you will immediately and viscerally feel the impact. Your analytic reports can likely show you the exact moment when they abandon your site.

      Other industries -- like home energy efficiency -- don't always have the measurement tools to identify the exact moment when they start losing users. So this kind of feedback into the design process is critical.
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        Feb 14 2011: June, I wonder if there are other lessons to be learned from the internet in this area. ??
        One of the things that fascinates me at the moment is the prospect of home energy being linked to domestic transport. For example, Copenhagen is considering a scheme combining electric cars, wind power and home energy supply - the energy analytics of this is being carried out by IBM. The idea is that car batteries serve as a distributed capacitor for home electricity and ideally cars do not just provide transport but are also able to dump charge into the grid when there is an excess. So from a consumer perspective the de-centralisation of the provision of home energy is going to be something that we'll see a lot more of in the near future. What fraction of the energy market this will be is not at all clear but most likely small in the initial stages - especially as it's going to be costly to set up effective distributed infrastructures. However, the success of these innovations - distributed patterns of use and home purchase of alt.energy generators - is likely to be influenced by social media, online activities and equally distributed virtual systems etc. that will play a key role in shaping our energy choices, or our perception of them and building energy conscious communities with purchasing power ...
        What intrigues me is whether engagement into these pioneering ventures will be dovetailed with something like - distributed gaming (where you can earn points that are cashed in for energy credits - or something) as a way of incentivising new patterns of usage and finding new ways of engaging with these complex, important and challenging scenarios. I'm not sure how successful these more playful approaches to engaging the public are with these kinds of issues ... and what kind of impact they've had ... In any case ... I'd be keen to find out!!
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          Feb 15 2011: Rachel, you bring up more than a few good ideas here worth thinking more about. There might be alternatives to granular decision making, such as creating a preference profile that allows your energy company to make decisions for you. As for distributed gaming, we are seeing submissions in the ecomagination Challenge that follow a similar line of thought. For example, have you looked at the Welectricity submission (http://challenge.ecomagination.com/home/Welectricity-Energy-Efficiency-meet-Soci)? What do you think of this, and other ideas? I encourage you to leave feedback for the Challenge participants as well.
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        Feb 14 2011: Mark, you are what we refer to online as a "Super User" :-) And yes, agree that providing this level of detail for those who want it can be hugely gratifying and motivating. The key, I think, is striking that balance ...
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    Feb 13 2011: As a judge for GE's ecomagination challenge, I want to build on Tore's use of the words "breakthroughs" and "ideas"... Some of the innovations we're looking for may be new, whiz-bang technologies, but others could be more about applying existing technology to influence behavior in new ways -- just as Arthur notes with regard to improving home energy monitoring. The real breakthrough might be something simpler, cheaper - and even fun to use!

    The key to powering the home smartly lies in a combination of (1) power generation that is cleaner and affordable, (2) helping people understand and take control of their energy use, and (3) driving efficiency. But all of this needs to be done in ways that are scalable so that we can build critical mass.

    More on this here: http://bit.ly/eRhTb0
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    Feb 11 2011: Solar water heaters have to go mainstream. They are much less expensive than photovoltaic panels and pay for themselves quicker. Countries like Israel, Australia and Spain are already using them in a good percentage of homes.
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      Feb 14 2011: Are there any specific innovative companies or designs for solar water heating systems you've seen that you're particularly impressed with?
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        Feb 15 2011: Rodrigo is right
        living in Israel, i can tell you that here it's very simple - it's simply the law.
        for a house bigger then a defined size, solar water heaters are mandatory, and there is a lot of competition between the companies here.
        Also i saw a very nice invention here on TV : an Israeli company developed a small wind turbine - about 1 meter in diameter - that complements the Solar heating.
        since at least here, usually there is wind when there is no sun, the wind turbine provides electricity for the electrical heating body inside the water container.
        that way you always have hot water, not spending even one cent on electricity or gas.
        and the option remains for the rare occasions that neither are available.
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    Mar 13 2011: Well I'm dragging around with the idea of an energy-saving game for kids
    (partial repost from http://www.ted.com/conversations/90/create_a_team_within_our_ted_c.html)

    => "Save the planet, save your allowance ; An integrated domestic edutainment game"
    The basis is simple: we couple the energy that enters a house (the electricity meter, or 'smart grid' data) to a game-platform (like this Conversations, but with more level up and graphic things).

    As such, any kid can play this game: the more energy he saves around the house (turning of lights & stand-by modes,...) the more XP he get's for his character.

    As a bonus, the energy bills of the parents go down. As such, the kid can be rewarded with the money saved (he ought to)
    => While playing, one learns to understand energy use and conservation, becoming eco-minded. By earning the money, the kid becomes entrepreneurial. And planet and parents profit from it as well

    We might need Jane Mcgonigal involved in this too ;-) www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world.html

    This can be extended to gas and water consumption, adding 'things to improve' quests

    Note: this game needs to be designed to be adaptable to multiplayer mode.

    Any people ready for a startup?
  • Mar 11 2011: biogas might be an interesting source if it can be developed.
    • Mar 13 2011: Great topic, Robertson!
      There are plenty of biogas-based technologies both in the developing and the developed world... For static/built systems, Austria and Germany I believe are leaders in large community-scale applications, while you are more likely to see single-family systems in India or Nepal.
      There are plenty of home-scale applications such as biogas stoves (an airtight recipient connected to a gas burner) that can easily be used in homes. Most of what I have seen though is either too rudimentary and DIY or requires a rather large home with a garden and animals...
      Producing your own biogas and using it for cooking and maybe even water heating (with pipes going through the digester without contact between the water and the organic matter) should be feasible even for smaller households with just the organic waste they produce or maybe adding glycerol.
      I think this may be a great area for bringing out new and better home applications!
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    Mar 9 2011: DESIGN, Build and retrofit residential and commercial buildings that combine high efficiency building envelope ( insulation, windows etc). Buildings in general account for 40% of total US energy consumption. Residential houses use 60% of their total yearly energy budget on heating, cooling and hot water. Install, wherever possible, high efficiency Geothermal ( ground source ) heating and cooling system. Geothermal system has efficiency of 400% because it is using free and renewable thermal energy from the Earth. Geo equipment runs on electrical power which can be generated by CLEAN renewable sources like hydropower, wind, biomass, solar. In deregulated electric power market each consumer has an option to choose that 100% of electrial power they buy is actually generated by renewable sources, directly supporting the growth of green power generators. Check with your local power company. Locally installed Solar electric array (PV) can generate electrical power that supplements green power used from the grid. If there is extra power produced by PV it will be sent to feed the grid (net metering), giving user a credit against their electric bills. Some states use SREC credits. A Certificate gets generated for every Mega-Watt-Hour produced by PV. Certificates can be sold on the open market (now $650.00 in NJ). That is in addition to the benefit of reducing usage and getting credits for net metering. Finally, locally installed Solar Thermal systems can supply 80% of domestic hot water and excess heat can also be used for supplemental space heating. Integrate systems with energy flow controls for seamless and most efficient operation. These three are proven and CLEAN technologies that can significantly provide energy from renewable sources in our backyards. They require capital investments, paybacks are 3-10 years and with cost of fossil fuel energy payback will get shorter. We have designed and installed over 75 integrated systems in New York since 2003. All available now!
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    Mar 6 2011: Check out the Brightbuilt Barn, http://www.brightbuiltbarn.com/

    A net-zero home with feedback of electricity use noting whether the home is using more energy than it is producing or not.
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      Mar 9 2011: The notion of net-zero is problematic, as it needs to be supported by a strong grid to ensure power continuity. In this case the grid can be considered a battery, which may be ok for a low renewable porducion penetration percentage, but as soon as we move to a setup, where renewable are the main prodution it is essensial that the continuity of power is maintained, and controlled.

      As an example let us assume that everyone has a net-zero hous based on solar production, meaning that the entire energy usage is covered over time by solar panels. On the energy balance this is great, but if there is no storage in the setup the entire supply will fail at night where no power is produced.

      So the equation is more complex than that. We need a battery! - currently we can use either the grid, thermal storage, physical batteries or the hydro plants as storage. The latter, by using surplus daytime production to pump water "uphill" into the ressevoirs, and reclaim whem needed. omly problem here is cost, as we now have 2 time the power capacity to supply the need - a heavy investment.
  • Mar 3 2011: I think an aspect that was not really considered in the discussion was the diversity of homes (except for the geography topic, thank you for that!)
    In order to develop solutions to a larger number of homes, maybe we should consider:
    1. Is it a house or an apartment
    2. Are we talking new construction or can we do something with old buildings too?
    3. Is the home owned or rented?
    4. Can we think of solutions for not-so-affluent people, so we improve their energy management as well?

    I´ll try to go deeper on those 4, but there should be even more aspects to consider:
    1. I think it is great to think that people who own houses should be enabled to generate part of their own electricity, just like they can plant vegetables in the garden. This reduces the enormous electricity wastes during transportation and makes people more conscious about their energy use. What about apartments though? Are there options for people who have no roof or large facade to generate their electricity? Maybe an advantage of apartment dwellers is the agglomeration of homes, where the whole building can generate its own energy on site through larger-scale technology which is also usually cheaper per unit of output...
    2. After the construction bubbles exploding recently the US and Europe, I really think the % of homes that one can reach through solutions for existing homes is way larger in developed countries. In developing countries, this is probably the opposite. Now, what can my parents with their 30 year old apartment do? Change the windows, close one of the balconies, possibly put external insulation. Such activities make blocks of flats in Bulgaria look like patchwork and are impossible in countries with stricter building codes for aesthetic reasons. There should be other solutions!
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    Feb 18 2011: Hi Tore,

    Thanks for the mention. I don't know if you're aware of it, but we did a TEDx Talk in Sacramento last year about the Solar Roadways project: http://www.youtube.com/user/TEDxTalks#p/u/0/nvWTaqUvsfA
    It was a great experience and the video is approaching 5200 views.

    Our current entry in the second round of the GE Ecomagination Challenge is here: http://challenge.ecomagination.com/home/Solar-Roadway-Home-Application

    We'd appreciate the support of our fellow TEDsters!

    Thanks again,
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    Feb 15 2011: i would like to see some statistics about how much energy enters households in form of products. to produce a cellphone from raw materials, enormous amount of energy is required. i have a feeling that we work on the non-issue, or the less-of-an-issue when we try to reduce home electricity usage, while bringing home big bags of energy in form of computers, phones, cars, televisions, plastic wrappers and all the like.
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      Feb 15 2011: We agree that household energy consumption and management is just one of many challenges that need to be tackled. While the current ecomagination Challenge focuses on "Powering Your Home", the previous was a call to arms for ideas around the Smart Grid- ideas on how to create, connect and use energy more efficiently across the spectrum. You can view these ideas, still, on the http://challenge.ecomagination.com website.
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    Feb 11 2011: Home automation. It has been around for a while, but too expensive and too technical for the mainstream. I see the IPad and tablet generation of products making simple home automation tasks easy to set-up, and manage.(with the right technology of course).

    A decent App developer and the right hardware can finally make home automation a reality for the mainstream. Cheap and easy to get started.

    An inexpensive app, that can monitor home energy use, offer tools for maximizing efficiency, turn on/off your homes lights, and even compare your efficiency score vs. your friends. (yeah, take THAT Farmville!)
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      Feb 14 2011: These are all great ideas. Wrapping social media into these home automation technologies will have really interesting implications. The latest post to our ecomagination Challenge blog explores how social media will help cut energy bills by fostering competition. Check it out to learn more: http://ow.ly/3UYCM
  • Mar 15 2011: We are energy, I am sure we could take a page from the matrix and used the human body as a natural battery.
  • Mar 15 2011: The answer to this question has to be the ability for homeowners to choose to buy power specifically from renewable sources.

    After that being able to receive revenue for power being put in to the grid by solar panals, wind turbines, etc.
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    Mar 15 2011: Just to give you a heads up, I do plan to present a new technology that will definitely harbor great interest to the "green" technology industry. From past experience I've learned to limit what, how much, and who to expose ideas to so please understand I will leave many details out. Initially, once my design is successfully received by the USPTO through it's Green Technology Pilot Project and I get my registered patent I plan to make a meeting with the American Energy Innovation Council (AEIC) and present an overview of the project. So you will probably be hearing from your boss of this in the future. Not sure of their most recent activities but as far as I know they are still on board with convincing the U.S. government of investing more funds into research and development of the energy sector. During the presentation, I will go over not only how this technology works, I will also show examples of how multiple industry can benefit from this. Capturing, managing and using energy at the home is only the tip of the iceberg of what this can do. It has the ability to provide use to not only the public and private sector but even the government sector also. The most unique things about this technology other than the fact it will be transitional in nature:
    1. is that there will be no need to lease or buy land for the creation of this energy.
    2. is that there doesn't have to be any specific global atmospheric condition for it to work, such as the blowing of the wind for windmills or the sunlight for solar panels.
    3. this energy is consistently around us and making use of it for conventional use has never been thought of up until now. (it is nothing at all scifi like or mysterious)

    Thank you Tore Land & TED for the opportunity of writing of this and maybe one day I'll be one of those speakers at TED talking about this.
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    Mar 14 2011: Is it possible to create a basic home battery system that would charge on grid, then supplement energy when people are using electricity at peak so that the drain on the grid is not so constant. .. I have no idea of the engineering or science of what I am even speaking of or if it would help. or if it is already being used...just my 2 cents
    • Mar 14 2011: Hi Langston. I have also been thinking about batteries, and I think they could save us in many ways.
      The problems with the technology right now are that for larger capacity you need very large batteries, that their technical lifetime is rather short, and that they are very toxic, and on top they are expensive. Basically, you need many expensive short-lived batteries that you can't recycle very well. Advances in better batteries will definitely be very very positive both for the grid and for powering homes...
      What you are referring to I think is called arbitrage.It is also what is intended by using electric vehicles to feed electricity into the grid when the price is high and get charged when prices are low.
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    Mar 9 2011: In order to spark more ideas, here is an approach.

    We live in a spoiled socity where power 24/7 is assumed to be a human right. Many of the load scheduling and power production balancing considerations are heavily halted by this, so what if we could only be garatied power 20h/day???

    What charateristics would the products in our homes have to exhibit? My take is that this is entirely doable, only very few loads needs to run always, such as fans and pumps for heating and cooling distribution. I my view the rest is a result of the evulution of power supplies as one giant interconnected gird, as the technologies of storing power (short time with batteries) are only now mature enought to rely on.

    Supporting a household for 4hours per day is 100% possible with batteries. In the electricfication of Africa, this may be a needed and fully accepted approach, and may drive the evolvement of products with the needed charateristics.

    The apporach would ease the peneration of renewables in the grid, as production/load balancing becomes uncritical, peak procution may no longer be needed, and transmission lines may no longer be a limit. Now we can wait for the wind to pick up, or for the sun to rise and not have to impose tough requirements on a giant complex infrastructure.

    If further this is evaluated in conjunction with a matched production and load type (such as 1: solar power driving airconditioners, 2:wind turbines driveing heating - and many more - all having high concurency of load and production) setup I think we can go a long way.
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    Mar 5 2011: All new construction should come with solar panels on the roof --- as part of the roofing. Providing your own energy is the place to start. The awareness that comes with that will help in conservation.
  • Mar 3 2011: (Continued)
    3. The renting issue. This is really a big one, and it is about incentives. If I know I will only stay in an apartment a couple of years, I am not interested in investing in infrastructure that I cannot take with me. So better windows, for example are out of the question. Yet my landlord is also not interested in installing better windows, as he is not the one paying the energy bills. We need portable solutions that I can take with me, wherever I live! Alternatively, we need better standards and maybe programs that give an incentive for landlords to invest in better energy management in their properties. Given the recent massive unemployment in the construction sector in Spain, for example, how do we redirect all those developers from construction to refurbishment of the largely inefficient housing to be found here? I really don't see the Energy Passport and similar programs work very well yet, also because they are not very mainstream in the rental market. This is probably more of a policy issue rather than a technological one, but it is part of the problem.
    4. Energy poverty is a term widely used in the UK. Many people simply cannot afford efficient appliances or good quality construction, and they waste a lot of energy, which in term takes even more resources away. This is especially true for the entire former Eastern Block, where poor quality housing and subsidized energy have lead to very poor energy management practices and inefficient homes. It is also true for all places, where construction has been done in a fast, cheap way, such as in Spain. Can we find low-tech solutions for this kind of homes too?