Energy Conscious Tech Greenovations

12/13/2012 3:10:15 PM

The electronic devices that make our lives easier also produce some un­wanted side-effects on the environ­ment. Fortunately, many consumer electronics manu­facturers and busi­nesses are working to create products that keep us pro­ductive while reducing energy demands to lessen our impact on the environment. Here, we take a look at the newest environmentally friendly technology initiatives.

ITA, EPA & President Obama work together to increase U.S. Exports

The ITA (International Trade Administration) and U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) are putting a plan in place to make good on President Barack Obama's goal to double the amount of U.S. exports from $1.57 trillion in 2009 to $3.14 trillion in 2015 by helping with the export of green technology solutions. The goal of the ITA and EPA is to continue American innovation in the green technology sector in an effort to boost manufacturing in the U.S. so that products can then be shipped overseas. And while it's unclear exactly what percentage of green technology solutions make up the total export goal, it will obviously be a major pillar for growth in future.

Improving offshore wind power production with the WindHUB

The U.S. Offshore Wind Collaborative and the University Of Maine recently teamed up to develop a helpful online resource for potential offshore wind power vendors called WindHUB. The searchable database aggregates data from multiple coastal states and determines the best possible locations for im­plementing offshore wind power collection technologies. The goal of this part­nership is to not only expand on WindHUB's already significant data set, but to also make the data much easier to access through an improved user inter­face. The University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center goes far beyond simple data collection and provides prototyping, testing, and commercialization of solutions to further grow the offshore wind power in­dustry in a large capacity.

Starting along the Atlantic coast, the Offshore WindHub program will collect data to determine the best locations for wind-based energy development.

Starting along the Atlantic coast, the Offshore WindHub program will collect data to determine the best locations for wind-based energy development.

Renewable energy investments still on the rise

According to the Worldwatch Institute and its Vital Signs Online series of reports, renewable energy investment has continued to grow since 2004. In fact, in 2011 alone, there were $257.5 billion in green energy investments, a 17% increase over the previous year. China led the way with $52 billion in renewable energy investments while the United States followed closely behind with $51 billion at the end of 2011. The growth wasn’t only seen in industrialized countries, which accounted for 65% of investments, but actually showed up in developing countries as well (35% of the total). And 80% of those developing country investments were directed to renewables in Brazil, India, and China.

Apple’s green data center

Apple’s website claims its Maiden, N.C., will be “the most environmentally sound data center ever built.” Using a combination of solar arrays and fuel cells, the data center will produce 60% of its power onsite; at full capacity, the data center is expected to require approximately 20 megawatts of power. To ensure the data center remains cool, the building features a “white cool-roof” that reflects heat, utilizes a system that pulls in outside air at night and during cool weather, and has a chilled water storage system that improves chiller efficiency by transferring electricity consumption to off-peak hours. Built using 14% recycled materials, the data center has many other design and operational features that have helped it earn a LEED Platinum certification.

E-waste recycling goal reached

Verizon recently reached a significant milestone by collecting more than 1 million pounds of e-waste since 2009. Over the past three years, Verizon has put on 35 Recycling Rallies to make it easier for consumers to drop off their old electronic devices to be recycled. However, the company isn’t stopping there; it has set a new goal to collect 1 million more pounds of e-waste by 2015. This program is a part of Verizon’s overall sustain-ability approach, which also includes a plan to cut down on carbon emissions.

A residential energy hub for use with green energy sources

Axion Power International and The RoseWater Energy Group recently announced the new Residential Energy Storage Hub REH1210S (starts at $45,000), which is an alternative home power solu­tion for consumers. In High Quality Power Mode, the HUB can support/provide a maximum continuous power output that measures 10 kVA. When paired with wind or a photovoltaic energy source (such as a solar panel), the Hub can convert incoming energy into usable power for the home. The Hub also acts as a generator providing an alternative power source in the event of outages.

The Residential Energy Hub is designed to use electricity and green energy sources to provide power to your home during normal usage and outages.

The Residential Energy Hub is designed to use electricity and green energy sources to provide power to your home during normal usage and outages.

Why do it?

Some estimates suggest there are upward of 600 million obsolete com­puters in the United States alone. That would be enough to span six acres and stretch a mile high. Other estimates state 80% of U.S. e-waste ends up in landfills, while globally 40 million tons winds up in dumps or is incinerated annually.

Two particularly startling estimates state that only 10% of unwanted com­puters are properly recycled, and more than 70% of discarded elec­tronics are shipped overseas to de­veloping countries with few, if any, safety regulations. This includes e-waste that U.S. recyclers ship to countries where unprotected locals burn, tear apart, dump, and bury electronics. These processes expose workers, communities, wildlife, water resources, and crops to the hazardous materials the e-waste contains. (Many estimates, for example, proclaim one computer contains as much as four pounds of lead, sometimes more.)

How to do it

Proper handling of e-waste be­gins with the purchase of electronics that have "green" (environmentally friendly) traits. One resource that as­sists in this effort is EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool; www.epeat.net), which maintains a registry of green electronics. After purchasing electronics, businesses can implement any number of moni­toring and management tools aimed at enabling more efficient energy use. The FEC (Federal Electronics Challenge) and Energy Star also offer resources via their websites at www.federalelectronicschallenge.net and www.energystar.gov.

Once electronics become e-waste, the primary methods for responsibly handling the devices are to reuse or recycle them. Reuse can be as simple as donating old electronics to schools, churches, or other organizations.

Local resources

The EPA (tinyurl.com/6q5nksg) and NCER (National Center For Electronics Recycling; www.electron-icsrecycling.org) provide resources for finding local, manufacturer and retailer-, and government-supported reuse and recycling programs. The EPA's Plug-In To eCycling program, for example, helps develop reuse and recycle programs through national and local partners.

Where recycling is concerned, it's important for businesses to un­derstand what local and state regu­lations require. The EPA offers information on the topic, as does the NCER and NERIC (National Electronics Recycling Infrastructure Clearinghouse; www.ecyclingresource.org). According to NCER, 25 states currently have laws concerning how e-waste should be handled.

Arguably, two of the most im­portant recycling relating issues businesses should consider include making certain that data is dis­posed of on old electronics before recycling and that decision makers select a recycler that handles e-waste responsibly vs. shipping electronics to impoverished nations with suspect oversight in place.

To find a local recycler and learn more about donating, Eco Squid (www.ecosquid.com). Earth 911 (earth911.com), and TechSoup.org provide search en­gines and other information.

But wait, that equipment might be valuable

Before you rush to recycle your old equipment, make sure it doesn't possess hidden value. XTechnology Group (www.xtglobal-usa.com) offers not only recycling services that in­clude data eradication and proper disposal, but also remarketing ser­vices that determine the maximum value of old hardware so that it can be cleared of data and resold or re­cycled in a compliant manner.

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