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What if you updated your electronics like you update your wardrobe?

Photo: George MacklinDesigner and TED fellow Dominic Muren wants you to update your electronics like you update your wardrobe. In other words, he thinks you should be able to replace or update only what gets worn out, instead of tossing and re-purchasing everything you own at one whack just because one part is busted or old or doesn't fit your lifestyle anymore. Who really ever buys all new clothes? Instead, we modify a little at a time, replacing parts that wear out, of adding new pieces as our lifestyle changes. I needn't point out that clothing is one of the …

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MIT geeks pull energy solutions out of their pocket protectors

Photo: Jon PariseHarvard hasn't cornered the market on inventing the future, starting businesses, and all the other Zuckerbergian things people do when they're not getting laid. At this year's MIT Energy Conference, students and grads came out of their nerd caves to serve up a Jabba-sized heap of tech: personal turbines, wind-collecting balloons, bathysphere batteries, and a way to convert commercial fleet vehicles into hybrids. Witness: StranWind makes arty little turbines that you can install at home, to produce up to 4 extra kilowatts of energy. Altaeros Energies is developing giant helium-filled donuts that hang out 2,000 feet in the …

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Why companies don’t care about climate change

Businesses would be more interested in saving trees if money grew on them.Cross-posted from TriplePundit. In 2009, I cofounded a company called CO2 IMPACT to develop high quality carbon offset projects in the Americas. While I have a Ph.D. in business, I have frequently been too focused on my values to justify the business case for a lower carbon footprint. I guess I care too much about what we are doing to the planet and what we are leaving behind for my son, Mateo. Along the way, I have learned a painful lesson that hopefully can help other aspiring climate …

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Now on Facebook: your grandma, mailman, and … the solar industry

You just got poked by the sun.Photo: diogo dubiellaYou have a new friend request ... from the sun! OK, it's actually from a company selling solar panels. "Solar service providers ... are increasingly turning to social media tactics in an attempt to create engaged communities around the sunny clean power," says Earth2Tech. Solar startups are harnessing the power of Jesse Eisenberg's brunette tendrils  Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in the hope of boosting business and creating word-on-the-street evangelists. One such company, Sungevity, already has cred with the hip green kids, so its embrace of social media is no surprise. The company …

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Chicago to build electric car charging network

An electric car charging station next to a gas station in Lake Oswego, Ore.Photo: Todd MecklemFirst Chicago gets Rahm Emanuel, now electric cars. Well, at least an electric car infrastructure. In a move that indicates electric cars won't just be a phenomenon of Greater Portlandia, utility Exelon and the city will roll out 280 charging stations across Chicagoland by year's end. Two stations will even be solar-powered. It's part of a smart grid demonstration project, partially funded by the federal government, to get a jump-start on the potential impact on the electric system if Chicagoans start buying battery-powered vehicles in …

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China to blow the doors off Obama’s namby-pamby electric car program

China's BYD e6 all-electric sedan.Photo: BYD HAHAHAHAHA! -- China China just announced plans to build 1 million electric cars per year. Let's put that in perspective: In Obama's State of the Union Address, he said the U.S. should shoot for 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015, total. Here's the really crazy part of this equation: a panel of U.S. auto industry experts thinks Obama's plan is "too ambitious," and that automakers are unlikely to meet that goal because of "uncertain consumer demand." (As Todd Woody reported for Grist, the U.S. Department of Energy disagrees, arguing that 1 …

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10 green ideas that are facing extinction

Photo: Geek Calendar Clean technology is full of ideas that may or may not work out, for any number of reasons -- modular nuclear, distributed power, humanure. Whether it's economics, physics or simple incompatibility with existing infrastructure, here, via Michael Kanellos (the David Pogue of clean technology) are 10 ideas that could work, but probably won't. Stirling engines What's wrong with Stirling engines: Stirling engines are external combustion engines that work by expanding and compressing a gas (unlike steam engines, which work by converting liquid water into gas). In theory, Stirling engines (invented in the 1800s) are the most efficient …

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Knowing what you spend on energy can cut usage by more than half

Feedback: It works for robot monkey arms and Scientology auditing, so shouldn't it work to help you save electricity? Networking company Silver Spring Networks and Oklahoma Gas & Electric think so (and so do we). They've teamed up for a year-long experiment in Norman, Okla., to test smart grid solutions, allowing users to get feedback on their energy consumption using different technologies and pricing plans. The result: The right combo of gadget and pricing plan helped people cut peak household energy use up to 57 percent. Energy-tracking technology saves: Smart thermostats, which can self-adjust based on energy needs, prices, and …

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California to green its grid with energy storage

With intermittent sources like wind and solar becoming more common, energy storage is increasingly seen as crucial for greening the grid.Photo: mike_tnIn just about every story on renewable energy, there's a familiar cast of characters: green power developers, utilities, and sundry state and federal regulators. But there's one key player that often lurks in the background -- the grid operator. In the Golden State, most of the power grid is controlled by the California Independent System Operator. Based in a suburb of Sacramento, Cal ISO, as it's known, essentially ensures that electricity supply and demand stay in balance to prevent …

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Are we in a ‘clean energy race’ with China?

A popular line among climate hawks these days goes something like this: If the U.S. doesn't support domestic clean energy, China will beat us in the clean energy race. The message has become quite popular lately, and indeed Obama said something very like it in his State of the Union, what with the "Sputnik Moment" (which, because I'm a bad person, I can't help thinking sounds like the title of a porn movie). There's been a wide-ranging debate about the merits of this approach on the interwebs over the last few months. I think it helps to separate the claim …