Shahin Taghikhani

Energy Coordinator at TUV-NORD, University of Tehran

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What is the intersection of renewable energy and an individual person?

how can a system or such a device being made so that every individual would be able to affect renewable energy systems on their every day life. what would happen if every person could inject energy to the grid...like if every person have an device that could produce 5 WATT from renewable sources and he/she could inject that really easy to the grid. in this case we do not need any storage device for long time and high capacity. Imagine if every individual in this population could produce a little amount of electricity and send it to the grid, how much energy we would have?!

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    Jan 26 2014: On the smaller scale, design variety of nice solar bags, so people can charge their gadgets while they carry them so they never have to plug them to the grid. Flexible solar panels should come in handy.
    How nice would it be if my laptop self recharged while in the bag so I would not have to search for an outlet when I turn it on and realize the battery was drained the last time it was used.

    There are so many things that can be done for energy efficiency, it's just the matter of people deciding to make them real or not.
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      Jan 26 2014: Actually this is the main idea. another Idea is that we can patent a shoe or technology in the which transfer human movement like walking and judging in to the electricity production. on the scientific scale we can use tidal technology in nano scale an then people by walking can produce electricity and get paid for it. for example if you don't have money to eat how about walking or judging for half an hour and get paid for..?
      • Feb 18 2014: Not only would that be a good way to get food for those with the capability of mechanically produce energy for every bodies use, but it could also be a way to insentivise the large portion of the population that is unhealthy due to a sedentary lifestyle to actually get out and get fit.
    • Jan 27 2014: How big/heavy would the bag have to be? How many hours a day would the bag have to sit in broad daylight to recharge a laptop? How much would such a device cost?

      Work out the math and see if the idea is viable.

      I suspect that you would find it much more effective to put the solar panel on your house's roof, and just carry around a spare battery for your laptop. The roof will be in the sun more than your laptop bag and the spare laptop battery lighter than the solar panel needed to recharge the laptop.
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        Jan 27 2014: It's just a concept, and it does not assume the technology used will be the same as we have now for conventional solar power. Bag would have to be no more heavier that it would be if it was just a regular bag, also it would have to be efficient enough to function in indirect sunlight. Perhaps the bag itself could be made from composite fabric that produces electricity upon exposure to light. Also it doesn't have to fully recharge the devices, just extending it for enough additional hours fould be sufficient. This varies from user to user so "enough" could be in range of additional hour to several hours. Just because something would not be efficient with current technology available, it does not mean the concept should be ignored. Instead we should try to advance the technology to make such concepts work.
        • Feb 16 2014: Well, that's nice. Let those of us who are forced to live in "reality" know when this idea actually becomes practical. What can be done in the here and now with what we have on hand?
  • Jan 29 2014: Taghikhani,

    Well, its an interesting concept for everyone to do a small part and add a bit of energy to a grid. Though compensating people just destroyed the whole concept. Here is a real world example, in the USA 1kwh (kilowatt hour) costs 15 cents... There is no business incentive to self-generate electricity. Also, the cost of installing renewable energy generating equipment also doesn't make economic sense. As far as renewable energy, there is only one... ONE issue setting renewable energy back. Energy Storage. That's it! Energy storage is the only problem. If we had better energy storage, no one will have an energy issue. Darrell indirectly hit the nail on the head. Please note that most electricity per day is used between 5PM-8PM. This is when people are returning home from work, yet still many business are still open. Its also when solar energy is significantly diminished.

    Find a better energy storage system and you just bankrupted all fossil fuel companies. My company has a self-funded program developing just that technology. And yes, it can exist.
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      Feb 1 2014: Delta PAG

      Finding a good storage system is one answer. but you consider, in that time (5PM-8PM ) there are still a lot of people out and in the gym. if there was a way to transfer their movement into the electricity then somebody will use it therefor there is no need to storage it. I know that soon the storage system will be innovated but I am looking for a way that every individual can contribute to electricity production
    • Feb 18 2014: What are the best storage options, and how well do they scale down to the residential/small industrial scale?
      I've lately become interested in solar thermal, and it seems like the obvious storage option.
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    Jan 29 2014: I have heard of pressure pads that, when walked over, create energy - if they were in every tube station or even on every road, think of the amount of energy you could produce.

    Something I heard on a BBC World Service Radio programme, Click, were these renewable highways, where street lamps where powered by the wind created from a moving car. There are loads of other ideas that are being developped to create these smart highways: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p017k03w
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      Feb 1 2014: that's another thought too. Using car movements in highways to produce electricity.
      Can those pads be implemented under the shoe !?
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    • Jan 30 2014: I have neither. So it's not my problem.
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      Feb 1 2014: I agree with you.
      But I think if we can use what ever device we have, in our every day life and produce Energy by it, I think the problem would be solved. The main problem in energy is our behavior toward using it.
  • Feb 18 2014: I was thinking as I read the latest interest about Ivanpah that there is an "efficiency" that is often ignored in renewables. Its space-efficiency. (http://www.ted.com/talks/david_mackay_a_reality_check_on_renewables.html)
    If we have to sprawl our renewables (more wind turbines in the prairie, more solar concentrators in the desert) for every given amount of urban sprawl... then we are bound to make the problem worse, not better (at least in terms of land use).

    So there is some logic to what you are saying - That we need are as many structures as possible with an energy surplus. ...But how?
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    Feb 17 2014: Individuals pushing power back onto a world-wide grid would do the trick. My daytime surplus is your nighttime lighting power and vice versa.
  • Feb 12 2014: The intersection of renewable energy and an individual person is a miserable life if the individual person isn't rich.
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      Feb 14 2014: that is one strong opinion, but I think if we can build the right system, we can change that. actually I thing the right behavior is the answer no matter that either a person is a rich or poor.
      • Feb 14 2014: Okay, so build that system and prove me wrong. That's all you have to do. Don't give a pile of "if" and other fantasies--show me some reality. Reality is that the intersection of renewable energy and an individual is that most people will suffer while the rich will wonder what everyone is complaining about.
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    Feb 6 2014: Enough energy to send Energy companies broke. The grid would essentially be run by the people, be highly robust, have high availability and be cheap .The idea though lacks application (at the moment) and would be a policy makers nightmare, possibly, with little redundancy.

    I like the idea though :-)
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      Feb 9 2014: Happily if we calculate it, it would not send energy companies to broke. it would only solve energy crises and energy companies will sell their energy to poor regions.
      Also most importantly it will correct the way of peoples behavior in energy criteria which is one of the most key functions in energy optimization and sustainability
    • Feb 14 2014: Cute little fantasy. WHO WILL RUN THAT "GRID"? The "energy companies" will always be around, even if they are supposedly part of the government.
  • Jan 29 2014: the store. seen plenty of great gadgets for harnessing renewable energy, some of them on here (favourite and most promising is http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gross_on_new_energy.html), but what good are they when they can't be bought anywhere? sell it and they will come.
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      Feb 1 2014: would you buy it, if it was in an online store?
      • Feb 3 2014: no because i wouldn't be able to install it myself. don't have the tools or the expertise.
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          Feb 4 2014: what if it was simple enough that you could install it yourself without any tools ?!
      • Feb 4 2014: if it was simple enough to install, we wouldn't be able to connect it to the grid. this is the problem with this and so many ideas on TED, great ideas, no company implementing them.
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          Feb 4 2014: But I think it can be simple and user friendly enough to be connected to the grid by the user it self. It just needs some basic structures which private companies or governments should implement them. Imagine every area in a city has an central hub which let people who living in that area use a terminal to send power to the grid and then you can just connect your device your-self.
  • Jan 27 2014: A crappy life if you're not rich like Al Gore or Ed Norton.
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    Jan 26 2014: Open a public gym, modify as much exercise equipment with electricity generating rigs. Rigging should not be an issue, if enough creative people put their minds into it. People would use the gym because they want to stay healthy or just for fun. In the meanwhile gym could feed the power to the grid. For it to make an impact, perhaps such gyms should be present in all neighborhood in every city. Experiment for some time, and formulate a prediction of how much power can be generated, more importantly when it its likely to be generated. Then non renewable energy stations will know when to adjust for it.

    Healthier population, and less fossil fuels burned - two birds down with one stone.
    Make sure the gyms are free, since people who use them would already be paying with energy.

    Just one of many possibilities this is. :)
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      Jan 26 2014: That I think is such a great Idea but this is a large scale. I think id we target every individual in their every they life I think we would be more successful. But the gym Idea is the next step. The whole vision is to convert everyday human activities into producing energy and inject it right into the grid so the storage system wont be a problem any more
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    Jan 25 2014: instead of thinking for example,injecting/ producing electricity into the grid by an individual, which i think is a good idea. but we should look at practical steps which does not involve or demand any creation of any device , that is how to consume less energy/electricity. this can be done anytime something like, use only what you need, use different bulbs that consume less energy, use solar power, etc

    to sum up, you got to shift your mindset and lifestyle, from wht you "want" to what you really "need'. period.
    • Jan 25 2014: Turning this around, the ability to use machinery to produce a large number of goods and services with little human labor means that we need a large amount of goods and services produced and consumed to maintain high level of employment.

      If we can find ways to power our machines with renewable energy, and are able to find ways to recycle and/or produce goods and services with renewable resources, then I see no reason to abandon a modern lifestyle with many wants fulfilled, in favor of a primitive lifestyle of bare needs subsistence with goods and services produced with a high level of human labor input.
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        Jan 26 2014: Actually there is always need to abandon excess and indulgence. but modern lifestyle is encouraging this kind of behavior. And also I think its a good mindset that we start to use renewable energy for our industry world and production. First step I think is to optimize energy systems efficiency in industry sector. For example using CCHP instead of separate cooling heating systems and power systems.
        But the main key I think is to change the pattern of behavior at least for now and with current technology in the whole world( not only in the USA or developed country,but also even in third world countries too).
        • Jan 26 2014: "Actually there is always need to abandon excess and indulgence."

          What is the objective argument for such a statement?
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        Feb 1 2014: The objective argument is about our modern lifestyle. I think nowadays modern lifestyles are full of indulgence and we have to change our way of life.
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      Jan 26 2014: @ U ba D Tmar
      You see this is the exact point. If you want to use renewable energy u need to change human behavior, which all the organizations are already doing that, but the out come is not as great /equal as input endeavors. The key point I think is about motivating people to use and produce renewable and use less, which the best way of that is money. if you can pay them just in time they produce electricity which that way they can feel it (saying like by credit increase in their credit card) some of people would use less electricity (what they really need) and produce more. This way we use peoples greed for money to change their behavior in the rightway.
  • Jan 25 2014: If everyone sent 5 watts to the gird, continuously, then the grid would have enough electricity for everyone to run a 30 watt light bulb for 4 hours a day. In other words, our manufacturing would stop, heating and cooling would stop, modern agriculture would stop. Life as it exists in the developed world would stop.

    In the United States, where I live, each man, woman and new born baby would have to add 1400 watts continuous to meet our current electricity usage, and that does not include other, more direct sources of energy such as petroleum for vehicles and natural gas for heating and cooking.

    For my family of 4, that means 5 kw. A 5 kw solar system is doable on my house's roof. But where am I to get the 5 kw at night an on cloudy days? In reality, I would have to pump 3-4x that amount into the grid during sunny days, and the gird would need to be able to store it efficiently.

    I am not saying that renewable is not doable, we just need to be honest about the scale required. There is an excellent Ted Talk based on switching Great Britain to renewables based on current technologies. Then could put up wind power over half the country, or solar over 25% of the country.... and then they still need to address how to store the terawatts that would be produces when it is windy and sunny for the times that the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining.

    5 watts is nothing.
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      Jan 25 2014: This is not the complete solution which would produce all the power is needed for our world. But this system would produce a lot of power with the help of a lot of individual persons which all of them would be involved in the production process which will let them to learn about the renewable energies and would be drive for them to use it in their home too.
      For example one of the biggest problem in renewable energies in my country is not having enough education and knowledge about those energies, however our wind capacity for Wind turbine power plant is huge.
      I think this way everybody would have and impact on and learn about renewable energies.
      Also I think it would be fashionable and catchy. if we can develop solar panels on I phones and their software on them for calculation and injecting the power to the grid and get the equal amount in credit in their account I think it would be a great motivation for every people.
  • Jan 25 2014: Why create more slaves? The oil slave trade is simply buying up energy trade. New day, less pollution, but same slave trade. If we are ever going to change this world built on unrelenting greed we will have to stop feeding it. Stop giving them all your money and invest it back into the community or individual self sustaining resources. Bigger is NOT better, Bigger promotes bullies and force. Go back to the community for solutions.
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      Jan 25 2014: I am not saying create more slaves. I'm just saying if every person could inject power to grid every individual and can get paid exactly at the same moment like an ATM machine for food or transportation or other thing , then we motivated people to produce more electricity which could be used as soon as it come to grid and there is no need for storage . Of course there should be planning and corporation to install and backup this system but this system would be a way which, we use people greed about money to control their behavior about producing renewable energy. this would be an education too for people. one of the biggest problem for renewable energies nowadays is their ROR( Rate Of Return) in investment. but this system I think people would touch the return rate at the same moment.