Photovoltaics and Firefighters

PV roof installation

Safety concerns are going to start being an issue with alternative energy installations. With any new technology come unanticipated concerns, as that system leaves the ideal world of the drawing board (or the computer simulation) and enters the real world.  We are already well acquainted with the concerns about wind turbines and birds (for the most part, the issue of bird strikes is not that great compared to other man-made hazards for birds, and is more than offset by the benefits to birds (and all other living creatures) from using a renewable power generation. But there will also be life-safety issues around any electricity generating system, particularly as they become more distributed and widespread.

What kinds of safety issues will be faced as part of other alternative energy systems?

One concern is unexpected voltage in power lines. As a safety measure, in many places, grid tied systems are already required to shut down when the power on the grid goes out. This serves to protect line workers working to reconnect electrical service from accidental electrocution if the ‘receiving’ end of the circuit is actually carrying current. The downside to this is that, without a building cutoff to isolate the building, it won’t have any power available, in spite of the generating equipment, in the event of a blackout. But this is one of the safety measures that is needed to go along with more widely distributed generation sources.

A recent article in Commercial Building Products magazine (unfortunately not yet available online) discusses some of the issues that were raised by fire officials when reviewing the net-zero energy IDeAs Z-Squared building in San Jose, California. The Z-squared building is a zero net-energy and zero carbon (hence Z-Squared) building owned by a consulting firm dealing in efficient buildings. Part of the adaptive reuse of the building the firm occupies was the installation of 30 kilowatts of solar photovoltaic panels, and this raised some concern with local fire officials:

“‘The first things firemen do if a building is burning is cut the power to the building so they can spray water, and take axes and cut holes in the roof to let smoke out,’ said Kaneda. ‘Both of those actions are dangerous with photocells on the roof. First, cutting the power to the building from the [photovoltaic] cells still leaves the actual cells ‘live,’ so if a fireman were on the roof preparing to chop a hole in the roof, he could be electrocuted.'”

This is also a problem that has been pointed out with hybrid electric cars which have battery packs and electrical cables running through the vehicle with more current being carried than emergency response personnel may be familiar with. Police and firefighters are being trained to deal with the special considerations when a hybrid vehicle is involved in an accident. Auto manufacturers are making special guidelines available for safety and rescue personnel to enable them to safely respond to an emergency.

As with hybrid cars, unfamiliarity on the part of rescue personnel should not be used as an excuse to continue with the status quo and to forego implementing alternative energy systems. Concerns about these systems should be constructively addressed, rather than shutting out new systems because they are a new peg that doesn’t fit an existing hole. Building codes are constantly undergoing review and development. Energy codes, in particular, are getting more and more stringent. Other requirements, too, are subject to changing regulations. As renewable energy systems progress and become more widely distributed, I expect that there will be standards for individual power systems that will maintain adequate safety while allowing the growth in alternative energy systems.

Image Source: www.solarexpert.com/instroof5.html

(The new) Kindle eReader

The Irish Times August 14, 2010 | TOM KELLY Go Gadgets: Ah, the smell of competition! The launch of Apple’s iPad, with its powerful ebooks app, has prompted a swift reaction from Amazon, with the imminent release of a new Kindle, its own popular electronic book reader. in our site bobble water bottle

In case you missed the arrival of the Kindle’s predecessors and its e-cousins, this is a hand-held device that lets you read digital versions of books downloaded from Amazon. It’s one of several similar non-paper readers which, while not delivering the tactile pleasure of turning the printed page, do allow you tote around a virtual bookshelf with hundreds of publications as easily as you would a well-thumbed paperback.

In the case of this new, third generation Kindle, that’s a veritable Dr Johnson-esque library of 3,500 books, double its previous page count. Moreover, it bookends these into a smaller, lighter body reflecting that hoary old cheese puff about the electronics business that was so successful, they’d had to move to smaller premises.

The body has had a once-over too, with a new buffed, graphite finish and a claimed longer battery life. This Kindle still mimics the printed word with its black and white e-ink rather than iPad’s full colour offering. This certainly gives the Kindle the edge when holiday reading in sweltering sunlight, but that may not be enough to make it an iPad ekiller.

Of course, they do get another bite of the ebook cherry as their own app for the iPad lets punters eread Amazon downloads there too. And they are obviously not ones to worry about killing off their babies, with this simply being called a Kindle, with no sequel- suggestive numerals or a Ludlum-esque Kindle Librarium, for example.

As admirable as all their technical nips and tucks are, it’s at the pricing end where Amazon has sharpened up, with the WiFi-only Kindle just $139 (Irish customers are still being sent to the US site to buy).

Cost WiFi model $139 ([euro]106), WiFi 3G $189 ([euro]144), amazon.com Pod a Porter Neckband Perhaps the only inelegant note struck by this otherwise beautifully executed piece of product design is the pretension of its rather puntastic name. Almost as pompous as that opening line. Anyway, this is a very cool accessory, even jewellery, for an iPod Shuffle – the stamp-sized MP3 player from Apple. It’s an ultralight neckband to hold your Shuffle and neatly channel the headphones around so they don’t get twisted and tangled up in your clothes. These are crucial, because the player’s extreme buttonism means the headphone cables have the Shuffle’s controls built-in to them. Bust them and it’s not so much Shuffle as muffle. in our site bobble water bottle

At the same time, the PaP holds the Shuffle itself of course, for when you’re togged down to your exquisite basics for the beach or poolside. You can hardly tuck it in your thong after all: two wrongs won’t make a right.

Designer Michiel Cornelissen has one more twist: each Pod a Porter is individually produced by a 3D printer in polyamide when you order online. In black, white and a range of iPodista colours.

Cost [euro]25, shapeways.com Water Bobble Not a typo, but a smart, eco-positive solution to getting filtered water on the move. So the travelling middle classes everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief. See, the good-looking Bobble Water Bottle has an active carbon filter that’s good for 300 dechlorinated, decontaminated fill-ups. So it helps neutralise the environmental WMD that is bottled water. Plus, the Bobble itself is BPA-free, 100 per cent recycled and recyclable, for an all-round feelgood factor. Of course, there is the small matter of shipping it over here.

Cost $10 ([euro]7.50), filters $7 ([euro]5.50), waterbobble.com.betweenideas@gmail.com and betweenideas.blogspot.com TOM KELLY


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