Tag: energy (page 1 of 3)

Personal, portable heating solutions

I read this article when it was published on Low-tech Magazine earlier this year. Given the cost of living crisis is being exacerbated by gas prices this winter, Team Belshaw will be using hot water bottles as personal, portable heating solutions!

A hot water bottle is a sealable container filled with hot water, often enclosed in a textile cover, which is directly placed against a part of the body for thermal comfort. The hot water bottle is still a common household item in some places – such as the UK and Japan – but it is largely forgotten or disregarded in most of the industrialised world. If people know of it, they usually associate it with pain relief rather than thermal comfort, or they consider its use an outdated practice for the poor and the elderly.


Hot water bottles can be combined with a blanket, which further increases thermal comfort. If I put a blanket over the lower part of my body when seated at my desk, it traps the heat from the bottles and keeps them warm for longer. Even better is a blanket with a hole in the middle to stick your head through – a basic poncho – or a blanket with sleeves. If it’s large enough, it creates a tent-like structure that puts your whole body in the warm microclimate created by the water bottles. Draping long clothes over a personal heat source was a common comfort strategy in earlier times.

Source: The Revenge of the Hot Water Bottle | Low-tech Magazine

Potentially the cheapest way of generating clean energy?

I’m sharing this as an potentially-optimistic vision of another way of creating a lot of energy for the world. As the article states, this particular version might not be it, but sea waves contain a lot of energy…

Solar electricity generation is proliferating globally and becoming a key pillar of the decarbonization era. Lunar energy is taking a lot longer; tidal and wave energy is tantalizingly easy to see; step into the surf in high wave conditions and it’s obvious there’s an enormous amount of power in the ocean, just waiting to be tapped. But it’s also an incredibly harsh and punishing environment, and we’re yet to see tidal or wave energy harnessed on a mass scale.

That doesn’t mean people aren’t trying – we’ve seen many tidal energy ideas and projects over the years, and just as many dedicated to pulling in wave energy for use on land. There are a lot of prototypes and small-scale commercial installations either running or under construction, and the sector remains optimistic that it’ll make a significant clean energy contribution in years to come.


SWEL claims “one single Waveline Magnet will be rated at over 100 MW in energetic environments,” and the inventor and CEO, Adam Zakheos, is quoted in a press release as saying “… we can show how a commercial sized device using our technology will achieve a Levelized Cost of Energy (LCoE) less than 1c€(US$0.01)/kWhr, crushing today’s wave energy industry reference value of 85c€ (US$0.84)/kWh …”


[T]hese kinds of promises are where these yellow sea monsters start smelling a tad fishy to us. Despite many years of wave tank testing, SWEL says it’s still putting the results together, with “performance & scale-up projections, numerical and techno-financial modeling, feasibility studies and technology performance level” information yet to be released.


If SWEL delivers on its promises, well, you’re looking at nothing short of a clean energy revolution – one it’s increasingly obvious that the planet desperately needs, even if it comes in the form of yet more plastic floating in the ocean. But with investors lining up to throw money at green energy moonshots, the space has no shortage of bad-faith operators, wishful thinking and inflated expectations. And if SWEL’s many tests had generated the kinds of results that extrapolate to some of the world’s cheapest and cleanest energy, well, we’d expect to see a little more progress, some Gates-level investment flowing in, and more than an apparent sub-10 head count driving this thing along.

Source: Wave-riding generators promise the cheapest clean energy ever | New Atlas

Unintended consequences of smart thermostats

It must have been about five years ago when we bought a Nest thermostat. Before that point, the temperature of our house would be a continuous low-level source of friction. Since then, not only has it ceased to be a point of contention, but it’s also saved us money.

This article points out that, while there are really positive benefits of reducing energy usage at scale, there are unintended side effects in terms of spikes at times when renewable energy isn’t available.

Set by default to turn on before dawn, the smart thermostats unintentionally work in concert with other thermostats throughout neighborhoods and regions to prompting inadvertent, widespread energy-demand spikes on the grid.

The smart thermostats are saving homeowners money, but they are also initiating peak demand throughout the network at a bad time of day, according to Cornell engineers in a forthcoming paper in Applied Energy (September 2022.)


Lee and Zhang investigated “setpoint behavior” and learned that most homeowners use the smart thermostat’s factory-default settings. Evidence showed that residents remain confused about how to operate their thermostats and are often unable to program it, the authors said.


While the setpoint schedules are designed to achieve the energy-saving benefit, the peak demands are concentrated primarily when renewable energy is unavailable – aggravating the peak demand by nearly 50%, according to the paper.


Without a tenable way to store energy from renewable sources like solar power, the electric utilities will be unable to supply this peak demand, which prompts fossil-fuel generators to satisfy the power load. “This can offset the greenhouse gas emissions benefit of electrification,” Lee said.

Source: Smart thermostats inadvertently strain electric power grids | Cornell Chronicle