Image Source: AISO.netPower needs are a growing concern for information technology (IT) needs. A server rack can now draw as much as 30,000 watts. As those servers work, all that energy is turned into heat, and in addition to the energy needed to operate those servers, all of that heat needs to be dealt with or else the electronics will overheat and fail. So data centers are huge consumers of energy, and their demands are increasing.
There are some steps that can be taken. A number of hosting service providers purchase renewable energy credits (RECs) to improve their green presence. And that's a good step, particularly for services that can't directly use renewable energy. But one company takes their commitment to the environment several steps further. They are even the only commercial data services provider that is also a member of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). And this has also landed them on Inc. Magazine's Top 50 Green Companies.
Affordable Internet Services Online (AISO.net) environmental concern extends from their solar power array, which provides 100% of their electrical needs, to the construction of their data center building. The facility is powered by an array of 125 on-site solar panels which power the servers and switches, as well as building lighting and air conditioning, with battery storage for nighttime operation. The facility also has a backup generator and a grid connection, but has only used the latter to sell excess power back to the utility.
Photo Credit: Univ of Alberta Creative ServicesNext to bulding heating and cooling, water heaters are the largest energy consumers in most homes. But, with a conventional water heater, much of the energy is spent on keeping the heated water from cooling off while it sits, waiting to be used. Tankless water heaters don't have these standby losses, and can be a much more efficient choice in some circumstances.
Tankless water heaters have no hot water storage (hence tankless), but can quickly raise water temperature by as much as 50 degrees F (~30 degrees C). They can do this with a flow rate ranging from 4 gallons per minute (GPM) to as much as 9 GPM. Tankless heaters are also much smaller than conventional water tank heaters, which can be a consideration for smaller homes where space is at a premium.
Depending on usage patterns, a tankless water heater can provide hot water much more efficiently than a regular tank heater. One manufacturer's information lists an annual operating cost (based on 2004 prices) of $166 for their tankless heater versus $210 for a conventional natural gas water heater, and propane and electric conventional heaters are even more expensive to operate.
There are lots of electronic devices people use, and a large number of them are powered by batteries. Various music players, remote controls, and if you have kids, all manner of electric toys. And, if you are using alkaline batteries in these devices, you are probably going through lots of batteries.
What do you mean, wood burning can be green?
In fact, masonry heaters (which are also sometimes called "Finnish heaters" or "Russian heaters") can be a green source for heating a home. While a traditional fireplace may be only 10% efficient (which is to say not!), a masonry heater can be 90% efficient. A well insulated house (even in a cold, Canadian location) can be heated on a single cord of wood per season. In a sense, a masonry heater is to a traditional fireplace what a compact fluorescent (or, even better, and LED light) is to an incandescent bulb.
Heliotube: Photo source: Practical InstrumentsSilicon solar cells are a pretty established technology. The panels have become more or less standardized to a regular form factor so that installers can use the same mounting hardware regardless of whose panels are being used. Big corporations like Wal-Mart and Google are readying large installations of panels that will produce enough electricity to rival a small power plant. Manufacturers are developing the technology, and new models of solar panels regularly outperform their older cousins by squeezing out a few more watts per square foot.
The silicon portion is still the most expensive portion of the photovoltaic (PV) solar panel, however. So a new solar panel that uses 88% less PV material than traditional panels could help cut the cost of going solar.
Co-generation is a systems approach for producing poth power and heat. Combined heat-and-power (CHP) plants produce electrical power, and use the heat from that production to also provide heat to local buildings (often through underground steam or hot-water piping systems). These systems have been most often found at hospitals and universities, where a large number of buildings can be efficiently served by a combined facility such as this. But new systems are bringing this same technology into the home.
Micro-CHP units are new to the US, with the first installations just beginning in the northeast. The technology for these units is not brand new, however. There are more than 30,000 homes with these units installed in Japan, where the gas utilities have been promoting them. In Britain, 80,000 under-counter micro-CHP systems are on their way and will be installed in the coming years.
<p><img src="/files/images/powerhouse.jpg" border="0" alt="power house" width="155" height="151" />There are many factors that contribute to greening a building. Of these, energy is an extremely important part of the equation. The <a href="http://www.usgbc.org/" title="USGBC">US Green Building Council</a> (USGBC) recognized this fact when they named their green building program LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.<br /><br />Energy costs can be a surprisingly large part of the cost of owning and operating a building. </p>
How reasonable is it to try to generate your own power? You want to take that big, green step, but there are a lot of unknowns. Is it hard to do? Does it take a lot of equipment? Will the systems last? What is the best system to use for your location?
I can't give you simple, easy answers to most of these questions, since there are too many factors, and it's not a one-size-fits-all kind of question. However, there is one question I can answer: Is it worth considering a renewable generating system? The answer to that is 'yes.'