Proof that procrastinating on that laundry is a good thing

Laundry. No matter how much I try to stay on top of it, there’s always a mountain of dirty clothes awaiting my attention. But why should I want to do loads of laundry when I could ...

Tagged: Xcel, save energy, demand

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Proof that procrastinating on that laundry is a good thing

Clothes washer

Delaying energy-sucking tasks until later in the day could help save you money.

Key Points

  • Energy can be more expensive when demand is high.
  • Xcel Energy is testing a program that charges customers extra for electricity used during certain parts of the day.
  • Programs like this might help keep energy affordable. 

Laundry. No matter how much I try to stay on top of it, there’s always a mountain of dirty clothes awaiting my attention. But why should I want to do loads of laundry when I could be at the pool, park, or having a “Let It Go” dance-off with my daughters?

Thankfully, Xcel Energy is giving its customers in Colorado a great new reason to procrastinate on doing chores like laundry until the end of the day. It’s their new time-of-use pilot program.

Here’s how the “Denver Post” breaks it down:

The time-of-use pilot has two seasons — summer and winter — and three rate periods during each day: peak, shoulder and off-peak. Residential rates during the peak period, which runs from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, would reach as high as 13.8 cents per kilowatt hour in the summer months and 8.9 cents per kWh in winter.

Electric use during the shoulder periods, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., would run 8.4 cents per kWh in summer and 5.4 cents per kWh in winter. During the off-shoulder period during winter and summer, from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m., they would run 4.4 cents per kWh.

The concept isn’t new. Several utilities have programs to incent customers to delay energy-sucking tasks until later in the day. This helps reduce peak power demands. As a product of basic supply and demand, when everyone is using energy during middle of the day to run air conditioners, power office computers and lights, and cook meals, demand is high – and so is the price.

By spreading some of the demand out to times when energy use is lower, time-of-use programs can help customers save money. If extremely successful, lowering peak demand could help utilities delay having to invest in new power plants, keeping energy more affordable all the time.

Would you use a program like this? Or, have you used a time-based rate program? Please share your thoughts. 

And now, I’m off to play. The laundry can wait.  


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Teaching your kids these tips could save your school district some serious dough

If you’ve noticed lots of pictures of small children wearing very large backpacks in your Facebook feed, you probably already figured out that school is starting.

But ...

Tagged: save energy, Alliance to Save Energy, school, back to school

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Teaching your kids these tips could save your school district some serious dough

Schoolboy standing in front of chalkboard

School buildings spend more on energy than they spend on computers and textbooks combined.

Key Points

  • School is starting soon.
  • K-12 schools spend $8 billion on energy.
  • Teaching our kids to save energy at school could help lower that

If you’ve noticed lots of pictures of small children wearing very large backpacks in your Facebook feed, you probably already figured out that school is starting.

But here’s something that probably didn’t appear in your “trending news section”: school buildings are the third-largest energy user of all commercial building types. According to the Alliance to Save Energy , K-12 schools spend $8 billion and universities spend $6 billion on energy – more than they spend on computers and textbooks combined.

Groups like the Alliance to Save Energy have programs to help students lead the charge to save energy and lower their school’s energy costs. One way to do that is by helping peers and teachers change some everyday behaviors.

Here are some tips from California’s Consumer Energy Center:

Turn Out the Lights

Lighting is one of the largest consumers of energy in the classroom. By turning out the lights when a classroom is unoccupied, the school can save money. The school also may want to consider "occupancy sensors" that detect whether there are people in the room. If no one is there, the switch turns off the light.

Stop the Drips

Hot water is another commodity that uses a great amount of energy. By fixing dripping hot water faucets, you can save water and save energy. If it's cold water, you should still fix the drip, because sanitizing and delivering water spends energy, too.

Close the Doors

Leaving doors wide open to a room or building may make it more inviting, but it wastes energy. Don't prop doors open – allow them to close after people walk through the doorway.

Change the Settings

If there are no health issues, change the thermostat settings to 78 degrees during warmer months and 68 during cooler months. Doing so will lower the heating and air conditioning use.

Reuse and Recycle

If the school doesn’t have a recycling effort, do it now. Reusing or recycling paper saves money and energy. And don’t forget to recycle aluminum cans and plastic bottles.

None of these ideas are new, but encouraging our kids to take the energy lessons they learn at home to the classroom could make a big impact on their school’s expenses.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Energy Tip

FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM

We’re sharing even more energy tips @KeepingEnergyAffordable. Stay informed about the latest issues, learn about new advances in technology, and understand how we're keeping energy affordable, one photo at a time.

Farmers’ Almanac is predicting this winter will be _______

Fall is in the air. School is starting, Hobby Lobby is full of Christmas decorations and it’s just a matter of time before pumpkin spice takes over everything including lattes, ...

Tagged: Farmers' Almanac, Energy Efficiency, weatherization, cold

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Farmers’ Almanac is predicting this winter will be _______

Walking in the wintertime

With frigid temperatures on the horizon, weatherizing our homes will be important.

Key Points

  • The Farmers’ Almanac is predicting a cold winter.
  • Energy efficiency will be more important than ever.
  • Pass the hot chocolate. 

Fall is in the air. School is starting, Hobby Lobby is full of Christmas decorations and it’s just a matter of time before pumpkin spice takes over everything including lattes, Oreos, M&Ms, pancakes and Pringles (yes, really).

It’s also time to start thinking about winter. And so far, predictions are for a cold one. The Farmers’ Almanac is forecasting an exceptionally cold season for much of the nation. “We’re calling it the return of the old-fashioned winter. The ice-cold winter is back,” said Sandi Duncan, the Almanac’s managing editor.

With frigid temperatures on the horizon, weatherizing our homes will be more important than in recent El Nino-driven warmer winters.

Here are some tips to keep the cold out this winter:

Let the sunshine in – Open your curtains in the day to let the sun naturally add some heat to your home, and then close them at night to help block cold drafts.

Seal your windows – Consider using those plastic sheets available at your local hardware store to cover your windows. Bonus: your kids will think you know magic when your hair dryer shrinks the plastic taut for an unobstructed view. Well, maybe that’s just my kids; they’re easily amused, and one is too young to talk yet, so I just assume she thinks I’m amazing and magical.

Stop the leaksFind out where your house might be letting valuable warm air out and cold air in, and caulk the gaps. Common culprits are around your door, chimney and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and cabinets. There are several different types of caulking (yeah, who knew?), but thankfully, energy.gov offers a nice chart to help you decide which one to buy. Don’t procrastinate on this step. You should caulk before the cold comes (above 45 degrees is best) so the caulk will set and adhere to the surfaces.

Pamper your heater – Replace your filter so it doesn’t have to work so hard to circulate all that warm, comfy air.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Chernobyl is prime real estate for development. No joke.

When you think about Chernobyl, “prime real estate development opportunity” probably isn’t the first thing to come to mind.

But don’t be so fast to judge. It might ...

Tagged: Chernobyl, nuclear power, solar. Ukraine, atomic waste

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Chernobyl is prime real estate for development. No joke.

Ferris Wheel in Chernobyl

The site of the former nuclear station might soon be perfect for a 1,000 megawatt solar farm.

Key Points

  • Chernobyl is making a comeback.
  • Sure, it’s an atomic wasteland, but it has real potential.
  • The Ukrainian is working to build a solar farm. Turns out, land is a bargain there. 

When you think about Chernobyl, “prime real estate development opportunity” probably isn’t the first thing to come to mind.

But don’t be so fast to judge. It might soon be the new sight for a 1,000 megawatt solar farm.

The Ukrainian government is hoping to produce cheap energy close to the ghost town. Right now, the country depends on Russia for most of its energy, so projects like this could help it be a little more independent.

The project planners say it’s a good spot for a solar project. It already has high-voltage transmission lines originally used for the now infamous nuclear station. And land is pretty cheap there. Shocker.

The Ukrainian government is working with investors and energy developers right now, with no clear timeline on when construction might begin.

Until then, take a look at these pictures of Chernobyl. I think I see a nice spot for a Starbucks. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Enough about wind power: Breeze power might be the solution.

If you’ve ever ventured a little too close to a speeding car, you know that an automobile can create quite a breeze as it hustles down the highway. One company found a way to use ...

Tagged: windmill, Capture Mobility, turbine, solar, breeze

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Enough about wind power: Breeze power might be the solution.

Speeding traffic

A windmill on the side of the highway uses air movement to make energy.

Key Points

  • Traditional wind turbines are big and expensive.
  • A new version is small, light and portable and only requires a slight breeze to work.
  • It also has solar panels and cleans the air. 

If you’ve ever ventured a little too close to a speeding car, you know that an automobile can create quite a breeze as it hustles down the highway. One company found a way to use that air movement to make energy.

Capture Mobility created a windmill that can sit on the side of the highway and only needs a car to pass it to start making energy.

But wait, there’s more!

It also has a solar panel and boasts an air filter that actually helps offset the pollution from vehicles passing by.

It doesn’t look like the classic windmill we all picture. It’s more vertical, light weight, small and mobile. The company hopes the product will be an energy solution for rural areas. The windmill includes an adapter to give residents in small villages without access to a power grid a convenient way to charge phones or other small devices.

Here it is in action:

Capture Mobility Prototype from Sanwal Muneer on Vimeo.

I hear the next version can also slice AND dice. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Cities: This is your energy future

I’m a Midwestern mom and my bigget accomplishment this week will be brushing both my daughters’ curly hair without having anyone cry.

So, I’m not an expert in urban ...

Tagged: future, University of California, urban planners

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Cities: This is your energy future

Cityscape at night

Our cities can save energy in the future. Here's how.

Key Points

  • More people are leaivng rural areas for the city.
  • This creates a bit of an energy conumdrum for urban planners.
  • Researchers at the University of California offer solutions for getting energy to all those city dwellers. 

I’m a Midwestern mom and my bigget accomplishment this week will be brushing both my daughters’ curly hair without having anyone cry.

So, I’m not an expert in urban planning. But Daniel Kammen and Deborah Sunder of the University of Calfornia Berkely are. And they recently released a paper outlining how cities of the future should get their energy. I hope for my daughters’ sake that ideas like this take root.

Here are Kammen and Sunder’s recommendations, as outlined in the journal Science:

Better solar

Cities can be tricky places to install big solar panels. But new technology is making it easier to integrate solar power production into skysrpaers, like see-though solar sells that can be mounted on windows.

What is this, a turbine for ants?

No, tiny turbines are wind power for city centers. Instead of tall turbines with spinning blades, new turbines are small, light and can be built into buildings, like this one used at the Eiffel Tower.

There’s treasure in that trash

Cities have lots of people, who use lots of stuff and make lots of garbage. The researchers recommend using the methane and carbon dioxide released at landfills to generate energy.

It’s not broken; it just needs a new battery

I say this at least 84 times a day when a toy stops working, so I totally understand just how important an improved energy storage system is. On a only slighly bigger scale, renewable energy sources will become more competitive when better energy storage systems are created. That includes things like home battery systems that allow buildings to store things like solar energy in the day and use it to watch tv at night.

Play nice

The final piece of the energy pie comes down to sharing. Using new systems that can be integrated and adapt to new technologies will keep cities at their energy efficient best.

And now you’re up to date on how our cities can save energy in the future.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, my secret is lots of leave-in conditioner. You’re welcome.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Local dad impresses daughter’s friends with unlikely knowledge of fusion energy

No, that’s not a headline from The Onion. It could be real. And it could be you.

Take five minutes to check out this infographic from the Department of Energy with everything ...

Tagged: fusion energy, dad, Energy Department

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Local dad impresses daughter’s friends with unlikely knowledge of fusion energy

Man in white t-shirt

Scientists are basically trying to make a star right here on earth to study fusion reactions.

Key Points

  • You can understand fusion energy.
  • Scientists are trying to make a star on earth to study fusion.
  • This infographic makes it oh so easy to learn about it. 

No, that’s not a headline from The Onion. It could be real. And it could be you.

Take five minutes to check out this infographic from the Department of Energy with everything you need to know about fusion energy. For example, did you know that scientists are basically trying to make a star right here on earth to study fusion reactions? Yeah, mind blowing.

The hope is that if we can use the same energy source at the sun and stars, we’d have access to all the carbon-free electricity we’d need. Ever. To power all the things in the whole world.

As explained here, fusion is simply two light nuclei smashing together and fusing to make a heavier nucleus. This releases energy in the process. A machine in New Jersey is studying fusion reactions, and might someday make a power plant with energy that never runs out.

Here it is: (Click on the image to make it larger.)

When you’re done with that, check out other exciting news like “Area Dad Informs Busboy He’s Ready to Order.”


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Look, a squirrel! Rechargeable batteries for the easily distracted

Let’s face it: We have short attention spans. We need things five minutes ago, or we’ll likely lose interest. That’s one of the challenges for electric vehicles. Who has time ...

Tagged: batteries, electric car, ABB, Charging Stations

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Look, a squirrel! Rechargeable batteries for the easily distracted

Dog on a trail

A Swiss rail and bus company created the equivalent of an attention-deficit battery. It does quick 15-second charges while travelers get on and off the bus at each stop.

Key Points

  • Charging electric vehicles can take too long for our short attention spans.
  • A Swiss company is now using flash charges.
  • It gives buses 15-second charges throughout their routes to save time and use more affordable energy.

Let’s face it: We have short attention spans. We need things five minutes ago, or we’ll likely lose interest. That’s one of the challenges for electric vehicles. Who has time to let a car battery recharge?

A Swiss rail and bus company is working on a solution. They created the equivalent of an attention-deficit battery. Instead of taking one long charge, it does quick 15-second charges while travelers get on and off the bus at each stop. These flash stations give the buses just enough energy to get to the next stop, whith then a little longer charge of about five minutes at the end of their routes.

This approach has a few advantages. The first is the simple time savings. Instead of sitting idle for longer periods of time, these buses can utilize the time it already has to stop during its regular business. The other advantage is that it keeps these larger energy users from pulling lots of energy from the grid all at once. By taking smaller amounts of energy throughout the day, it helps keep energy demand more constant instead of peaking at certain times. Big peaks in energy demand require energy companies to ramp up additional sources of energy, and these sources usually aren’t as affordable.

The company behind this new technology, ABB, just finished a pilot project and now has a commercial contract to operate the buses in Geneva. The hope is that this system could also work for other large electric vehicles that make frequent stops like delivery trucks and cabs.

Now, where’s that squirrel? 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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10 electricity-free ways to have family fun

It’s August, which means school is right around the corner. Soak up the last of the long days and freedom from the classroom with some electricity-free ways to have family fun.

Here’s ...

Tagged: family, Project Envolve, unplug, save energy

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10 electricity-free ways to have family fun

Family playing cards

Unplug and have some fun with your family before summer slips away.

Key Points

  • It’s easy to get in an electronic rut.
  • Unplug and have some electricity-free fun.
  • It’s fun and affordable. 

It’s August, which means school is right around the corner. Soak up the last of the long days and freedom from the classroom with some electricity-free ways to have family fun.

Here’s a list from mommy-blogger, seemomclick.com. She writes for Project Envolve, a how-to hub for living an energy-efficient lifestyle.

  • Family game night (Chinese checkers is the current favorite!)
  • Crafts
  • Hide-and-Go Seek
  • Color
  • LEGOs or other building toys
  • Puzzles
  • Charades
  • Read a book
  • Make a no-bake recipe (these Peanut Butter Balls are our favorite – a mixer is required but no oven!)
  • Set up a scavenger hunt (these are REALLY fun!)

I like her list, but would have to add a few summer favorites like hanging out at the park, going for a bike ride or hike and playing with sidewalk chalk and bubbles. What are some of your tips for unplugging and having fun with your family? 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Energy Tip

KEEP THE AIR CIRCULATING.

Install an attic ventilator. An attic ventilating system draws cool air up through the house and may provide as much comfort as an air conditioner at a much lower cost. Use the system to "pump in" cool air during summer evenings.

Your next house could be made of old toilets

One way to save energy is to reuse materials instead of creating new ones. So when Tom van Soest saw how many toilets, glass and insulation are thrown away when a building is demolished, ...

Tagged: toilet, StoneCycling, manufacture, brick, save energy

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Your next house could be made of old toilets

Toilet

The energy it takes to manufacture new products is a hidden part of our consumer experience.

Key Points

  • It generally takes less energy to recycle a material than make something new.
  • A company in the Netherlands is reusing industrial waste as bricks.
  • These bricks take 25 percent less energy to make than traditional ones. 

One way to save energy is to reuse materials instead of creating new ones. So when Tom van Soest saw how many toilets, glass and insulation are thrown away when a building is demolished, he decided to figure out a way to use them.

The first step was making a giant blender to mix up a concoction of garbage. Then he made bricks out of them. And here’s the thing. They’re really pretty bricks. And useful. And use 25 percent less energy to produce that their traditional counterparts.

 Tom and his long-time friend Ward Massa took these bricks of industrial waste and made a company, StoneCycling.

The company currently uses waste from the ceramic, glass and insulation industries but is exploring using other waste, like ground ash from power plants, if government regulations eventually allow it.

They’re also working with builders to do a better job of documenting what materials go into a new structure so it will be easier for companies like StoneCycling to purchase them back for a new use when the building is eventually demolished.

The energy it takes to manufacture new products is a hidden part of our consumer experience. It’s nice to see a company that is doing something to save energy.

Learn more about StoneCycling at Smithsonian Magazine.  


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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How much energy does Pokemon Go use?

As a kid, my brother, sister and I played endless hours of Monopoly. The only energy we used was brain power to take over the board (and to make sure my little brother wasn’t cheating. ...

Tagged: Pokemon, Energy Usage, Data, Niantic, Forbes

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How much energy does Pokemon Go use?

Pokemon Go

It takes the energy equivalent of about one-fifth of a gallon of gasoline a year to connect an average Pokemon player.

Key Points

  • Pokemon Go uses a lot of energy to play.
  • It requires lots of data too, which means more data servers are being built.
  • It also wears out your sneakers, and sneakers take energy to manufacture (yes, a stretch, but still). 

As a kid, my brother, sister and I played endless hours of Monopoly. The only energy we used was brain power to take over the board (and to make sure my little brother wasn’t cheating. You know who you are).

But although the board game certainly isn’t dead, it’s much more likely these days that kids are playing something that uses energy. The kind of energy that requires real electronics to make a device work.

It’s no surprise that we’re using more energy to do things that didn’t require an electric current a generation ago. But now that Pokémon Go is taking over the world, analysts are recalculating just how much energy we use in our daily lives.

A recent article in Forbes Magazine outlines the impacts of the gaming world on our energy demand. As noted in the article, John Hanke, CEO of Niantic Labs that developed Pokémon Go, remarked that the game requires “building a unique, massively scalable server and global location dataset.” That’s techy talk for saying that the game required building lots of data servers, which use a lot of electricity to operate.

To make it simple, Forbes calculated that it takes the energy equivalent of about one-fifth of a gallon of gasoline a year to connect an average Pokemon player. At the rate Pokemon is growing, that would be about the same as adding about 20,000 cars to the roads.

Another analyst looked at Pokemon Go’s energy use from a different angle. Shoes. Lots of gamers used to spend their days locked in a basement. But now they’re out walking. And that requires shoes. Shoes wear out and require energy to make. The analyst determined that all this new physical activity will account for at least 100 million more shoes worn-out annually. And when calculated for energy use, it will take about the equivalent of the fuel 100,000 new cars on the road would use to manufacture new kicks.

The bottom line? We rely on energy for more and more things in our daily lives, so keeping it affordable — and sustainable — is as important as ever. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Where is the dam tour?

Well, it might be a lot closer than you think. When you hear about hydropower, your mind probably goes to one of the biggies, like the Hoover ...

Tagged: hydropower, Hoover Dam, electricity, renewable energy, dam

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Where is the dam tour?

Hoover Dam

The U.S. doesn’t need to build any new dams to expand hydropower.

Key Points

  • There’s potential to generate more electricity from hydropower.
  • The U.S. has more than 80,000 dams, but only 2,000 of them have power production.
  • A new report found that just improving our existing dams could increase hydropower by 50 percent by 2050. 

Well, it might be a lot closer than you think. When you hear about hydropower, your mind probably goes to one of the biggies, like the Hoover Dam, which, no doubt, was the star of your own “Vegas Vacation.”

But did you know that the U.S. has more than 80,000 dams? And only 2,000 of them have power production? Energy experts see that as a huge opportunity to increase our use of this renewable energy.

Hydropower already accounts for 6 percent of our electricity. That makes it fourth place for our power sources. A new report from the Department of Energy explored the options for making hydropower an even bigger part of the energy mix.

Hydro has a lot of benefits. A dam can provide consistent energy, unlike wind and solar. And it’s one of our most abundant resources. On the other side, there can be significant environmental impact to the natural landscape and wildlife when building a dam.

The good news is the report determined that the U.S. doesn’t need to build any new dams to expand hydropower. Just improving the existing dams could grow it by 50 percent by 2050.

“The future of hydropower is not in building new dams. It’s in re-powering existing dams, adding power generation to those dams that don’t have it and upgrading and improving the dams that have hydropower in them,” Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers, said in an interview with the Washington Post. “That’s the kind of future we ought to be looking at, where we can invest in responsible hydropower, while making sure we don’t destroy any of the remaining rivers we have.”

The report did not make any policy recommendations, instead leaving the dam question up to the next administration. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Yes, coffee really does solve everything

Oh coffee, I love you so much. You’re delicious. You help me function after I lose count of how many times I was up with the kiddos the night before. You’re present at every ...

Tagged: BioBean, coffee, fuel, London, biomass

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Yes, coffee really does solve everything

Happy cup of coffee

Just when I thought I couldn’t love coffee any more, I find out that those delicious grounds could someday also power my car and heat my house.

Key Points

  • Coffee grounds aren’t garbage.
  • They can be used to heat your home and fuel your car.
  • A company in London has a factory that turns waste grounds into biomass pellets, briquettes and biodiesel. 

Oh coffee, I love you so much. You’re delicious. You help me function after I lose count of how many times I was up with the kiddos the night before. You’re present at every social function I attend. You might be my best friend.

Just when I thought I couldn’t love coffee any more, I find out that those delicious grounds could someday also power my car and heat my house.

Bio-bean is a company from the UK that uses waste ground coffee to make biomass pellets and briquettes and soon hopes to even make biodiesel.

The company gets its coffee grounds from homes and businesses throughout the United Kingdom including cafes, offices and instant coffee factories. They get the grounds for free in exchange for hauling away the coffee trash. And then they make it into treasure.

Bio-bean has a factory in Cambridge where the coffee grounds are processed to take away the plant oils in them and then are formed into pellets that can be used to heat buildings.

The company started in 2014 and grew in 2015 to open its recycling factory. This year, Bio-bean hopes to develop its liquid fuel production and then start to establish franchises worldwide.

See? Coffee really does solve all our problems. As if I ever doubted it.  


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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A magic bracelet could keep you cool on the hottest summer day

Forecasters are predicting 100-degree heat here this week. Our family will likely forego the park and opt for playing inside with the A/C blasting to beat the heat. But what if we ...

Tagged: Wristify, MIT, air conditioning, body temperature, thermoelectric

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A magic bracelet could keep you cool on the hottest summer day

Temperatures are soaring

This bracelet could make it possible to play at the park on a scorching hot day, but the impact is actually much bigger.

Key Points

  • A new bracelet can help regulate your body temperature.
  • It uses a thermoelectric material to heat or cool the blood flowing through your wrist.
  • Personal cooling systems like this could help save energy and money as an alternative to using the A/C.

Forecasters are predicting 100-degree heat here this week. Our family will likely forego the park and opt for playing inside with the A/C blasting to beat the heat. But what if we had a magic device that could keep us cool, even when it’s boiling hot out?

Some researchers at MIT are working on a solution to our heat problems. They created a thermoelectric bracelet. It looks like a watch and works with your blood-flow to quickly change your body’s internal temperature. With the touch of a button, the wearer can adjust the temperature on the device, which then uses a thermoelectric material to heat or cool your wrist. The effect is supposed to be similar to dipping your toes in cold water on a hot day, helping you adjust to the extreme temperatures around you.

As a mom with kids who want to play outside, my first thought is that this bracelet could make it possible to play at the park on a scorching hot day or keep us comfortable while we build a snowman this winter. But the impact is actually much bigger.

The researchers hope that this device could help the world save energy. According to UC Berkley’s Haas School of Business, the number of homes with air conditioning are expected to rise from 13 percent today to more than 70 percent at the end of the century. If that happens, that will greatly increase the amount of electricity consumed. If we had the option to use personal cooling systems like Wristify, we might not be so quick to adjust our thermostats.

The researchers created a startup company named EMBR Labs and hopes to start taking product pre-orders this fall. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Pokémon GO draining your battery? Plug it into a plant

If you’re one of the thousands of gamers now obsessed with Pokémon GO, you’ve probably discovered that it drains your battery. In fact, using only the Pokémon GO app, an iPhone ...

Tagged: Pokemon, photosynthesis, Green Energy, renewable energy

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Pokémon GO draining your battery? Plug it into a plant

Pokemon GO

Using only the Pokémon GO app, an iPhone 6S will die after only seven hours of play time. And, from what I’ve observed around town, seven hours is not enough.

Key Points

  • A new device can use the energy plants capture during photosynthesis to charge your phone.
  • You bury the device in the dirt near the plant to capture some of the plant’s energy.
  • It doesn’t hurt the plant. 

If you’re one of the thousands of gamers now obsessed with Pokémon GO, you’ve probably discovered that it drains your battery. In fact, using only the Pokémon GO app, an iPhone 6S will die after only seven hours of play time. And, from what I’ve observed around town, seven hours is not enough.

The beauty of Pokémon GO is that it gets you outside. Fresh air. Trees. Flowers. But not an outlet in sight. Before you give up on completing your Pokédex, check out this new way to charge your phone with plants.

The E-Kaia is a device that captures some of the power plants create through photosynthesis and turns it into electricity. You just bury the device in the soil near the plant and plug in your phone. It was created by three engineering students in Chile who couldn’t find a place to charge their phones on campus.

The E-Kaia can provide five volts and 600 milliamps — enough to charge a smartphone or other small electronic device.

It’s not available to buy just yet, but the inventors are working on getting it on the market soon.

Until then, you might consider turning on Pokémon GO’s battery saving mode available in the game’s setting options.

Now what are you waiting for? Catch ‘em all!


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Three (more) reasons to fire up your grill this weekend

It’s hard to beat the flavor of pretty much anything cooked on a grill. But if you need even more motivation to become a grill master, consider how energy efficient outdoor cooking ...

Tagged: energy efficient, grill, heat, air conditioning

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Three (more) reasons to fire up your grill this weekend

It's Grill Time!

Your summer cooking can be energy efficient -- and extra tasty.

Key Points

  • Grilling is a great way to save energy.
  • No dishes means no energy spent running the dishwasher or heating water.
  • It keeps the heat outside instead of warming your house with the oven. 

It’s hard to beat the flavor of pretty much anything cooked on a grill. But if you need even more motivation to become a grill master, consider how energy efficient outdoor cooking is.

Here are three reasons to fire up the grill this weekend:

  1. It beats the stovetop or oven — Grills use less energy to run than their indoor competitors.
  2. It keeps the heat outside — Your air conditioner will thank you for not filling the kitchen with hot oven air.
  3. Less cleanup saves energy too — Grilling frees you up from washing the pots and pans you’d use for an oven-baked meal, saving the energy you’d spend to run the dishwasher or heat water.

If you’re still not convinced, check out these grilling tips from our friends at www.projectevolve.com. Pizza on the grill? These are my kind of people.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Energy Tip

PLANT A TREE

Planting trees or shrubs that provide shade for your air-conditioning unit can increase efficiency by up to 10 percent.

The Girl Scouts made me do it

Girl Scouts can be very convincing, as evidenced by the stock pile of Samoas and Thin Mints in my freezer.

So it’s no surprise that researchers discovered that a group ...

Tagged: Girl Scouts, save energy, Energy Efficiency, children

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The Girl Scouts made me do it

Adult girl scouts

I’d do pretty much anything — including switching out my lightbulbs — for a Thin Mint.

Key Points

  • Changing habits can be hard.
  • A new study found that children might be good at teaching their parents new tricks.
  • The study had 30 Girl Scout troops teach their families about energy efficiency.

Girl Scouts can be very convincing, as evidenced by the stock pile of Samoas and Thin Mints in my freezer.

So it’s no surprise that researchers discovered that a group of scouts convinced their parents to make significant changes in how they use energy.

A group of scientists from the University of Oregon worked with 30 Girl Scouts troops in California. The 9- and 10-year-olds were taught how to save energy in their homes. They did activities in their troops to encourage one another to be more energy efficient, adding to the social element of making a change to their daily routines.

Surveys of the girls’ and parents’ behaviors showed that this approach worked. Not only did the girls start saving energy, but they influenced their parents to make changes as well. The researchers calculated that the changes the families made would reduce each household’s energy consumption by 5 percent — a change that could really add up if multiplied in households nationwide.

The researchers are optimistic that educating children might be an effective way to change how households use energy. However, more research needs to be done to see if it’s as effective with other kids of different ages in other areas of the country.

Maybe the scouts should just start a cookie rewards program. I’d do pretty much anything — including switching out my lightbulbs — for a Thin Mint. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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The silver lining to your hail damage

Summer storms are notorious for spectacular lighting shows and damaging hail. Those ice balls are bad news for your tomato plants, and in more severe cases, they can do some serious ...

Tagged: Department of Energy, cool roof, Emissions, peak, temperature

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The silver lining to your hail damage

Contractor working on a roof

If you experienced hail damage to your roof this summer, consider installing a cool roof when you replace it.

Key Points

  • If you’re replacing a roof this summer, consider making it a cool one.
  • Cool roofs reflect the sunlight and absorb less heat.
  • A cool roof can be up to 50 degrees cooler than a conventional one.

Summer storms are notorious for spectacular lighting shows and damaging hail. Those ice balls are bad news for your tomato plants, and in more severe cases, they can do some serious damage to your vehicles and home.

If you experienced hail damage to your roof this summer, consider installing a cool roof when you replace it. It might help you save money on your energy bill next summer.

Think of a cool roof as your favorite basic white tee on a hot summer day. It helps keep you cool by reflecting the sunlight and absorbing less heat than your favorite dark hues. A cool roof made of reflective paint, sheet covering or shingles can keep your roof up to 50 degrees cooler than a conventional roof, making it much easier to keep your house cool.

Here are the benefits of a cool roof, according to the U.S. Department of Energy:

  • Reducing energy bills by decreasing air conditioning needs
  • Improving indoor comfort for spaces that are not air conditioned, such as garages or covered patios
  • Decreasing roof temperature, which may extend roof service life

Beyond the building itself, cool roofs can also benefit the environment, especially when many buildings in a community have them. Cool roofs can:

  • Reduce local air temperatures (sometimes referred to as the urban heat island effect)
  • Lower peak electricity demand, which can help prevent power outages
  • Reduce power plant emissions, including carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides and mercury, by reducing cooling energy use in buildings

Find out more about the types of roof systems available.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Unlikely source of energy: Plastics

One of my daughter’s favorite toys is a plastic beaver that sings “Baby.” Get it? Justin Beaver? I think it’s hilarious, but my husband keeps trying to get rid of it. I most ...

Tagged: plastic, recycled energy, landfill, Justin Bieber

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Unlikely source of energy: Plastics

Plastic water bottles could help supply energy

If my husband has his way, I know of at least one toy that will be donated to the energy cause.

Key Points

  • We use a lot of plastic.
  • Some is recycled, but most ends up in landfills.
  • Scientists are figuring out a way to use all that plastic to make energy. 

One of my daughter’s favorite toys is a plastic beaver that sings “Baby.” Get it? Justin Beaver? I think it’s hilarious, but my husband keeps trying to get rid of it. I most recently found Justin Beaver stashed behind the mittens in the coat closet.

My husband will be happy to hear that scientists are working on a new way to use the unwanted plastic in our lives.

Most of the plastic we use ends up in a landfill. And it doesn’t exactly decompose. Instead, it sits there for about a 1,000 years. Recycling helps, but only 9 percent of the plastics in the U.S. are reused.

Soon all that trash might be a fuel for energy. Because plastic is so durable, scientists have had a hard time figuring out a way to break apart its individual molecules. It needs to be broken down before it can be used effectively to make energy.

High heat works to break the plastic down, but it’s hard to control. Plus it takes a lot of energy to make all that heat, offsetting the benefit of any energy created. Now scientists at the University of California are treating the plastics with alkanes. This process makes the plastic easier to break down at a lower temperature.

They’re still working on refining the process to make it more efficient. If successful, this could help reduce our waste and create a new fuel source for our energy needs.

And if my husband has his way, I know of at least one toy that will be donated to the energy cause.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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See how much a Gilmore Girls binge costs in 27 countries

I know I’m a little late to the game, but I can’t get enough Gilmore Girls. I’m only on season two of my Netflix binge, but I’m totally hooked. And you better believe I have ...

Tagged: electricity, Gilmore Girls, television, price, appliances

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See how much a Gilmore Girls binge costs in 27 countries

Mother and daughter watching tv

Running my TV for five hours a day would cost the typical viewer in the United States about $8.35 annually, but I’m sure Rory already knows this.

Key Points

  • The cost of electricity varies greatly worldwide.
  • This chart compares the cost of running appliances in 27 countries.
  • Mexico’s electricity prices rank as the cheapest. Denmark and Germany have the highest electric costs. 

I know I’m a little late to the game, but I can’t get enough Gilmore Girls. I’m only on season two of my Netflix binge, but I’m totally hooked. And you better believe I have the tissue ready for when Rory graduates. I’m a little choked up just thinking about it.

According to an interactive chart from National Geographic, running my TV for five hours a day would cost the typical viewer in the United States about $8.35 annually. In Germany that would cost $25.45, and in Mexico it would be $6.32.

Check it out here.

National Geographic notes that while $6.32 may seem like a bargain in Mexico, it doesn’t take into account that the median household income there is less than one-sixth that of the United States, so it’s actually a large percentage of a household’s expenses. On the other end of the spectrum, keeping the TV on in Germany costs so much because more than half of power bills there are made up of hefty taxes and utility fees.

I’m sure Rory already knows about all this from her advanced-placement Chilton classes, but she’d probably enjoy checking out these comparisons as research for her post-graduation backpacking trip with her mom. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Summer school session: A brief history of energy in the US

Its summer, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a little between trips to the pool.

The EIA recently released a report on the energy consumption in the United States ...

Tagged: EIA, biomass, history, Coal, petroleum, electric, Grid

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Summer school session: A brief history of energy in the US

Its summer, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a little.

The first energy used in our country was biomass. The fuel started to gain some popularity again in recent years, but has now leveled off.

Key Points

  • A new chart gives a good visual history of energy consumption in the U.S.
  • Biomass was the first energy used in our country.
  • The 1960s saw a spike in consumption when the electric grid expanded. 

Its summer, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a little between trips to the pool.

The EIA recently released a report on the energy consumption in the United States from 1776 to 2040. It’s really interesting to see how our energy use has changed throughout the centuries.

Here are a few highlights:

  • The first energy used in our country was biomass. Biomass started to gain some popularity again in recent years — including wood as well as liquid biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel — but has now leveled off.
  • Coal was king for about 75 years before being dethroned by natural gas and petroleum.
  • Petroleum consumption increased with the rise of automobiles, helping it surpass coal in the early 1950s.
  • The electric grid expanded in the 1960s, increasing energy consumption overall.
  • Coal peaked in 2000, then started its rapid decline. In 2015 alone, coal fell 13 percent, the highest annual percentage decrease of any fossil fuel in the past 50 years.
  • The EIA predicts that natural gas will be the top source of energy by 2040. 

Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Earthlings fight aliens with renewable energy (it could happen)

An alien spaceship threatens to destroy life as we know it. But the extraterrestrials retreat when earthlings use their spherical tokamak to shoot plasma five to 10 times hotter ...

Tagged: Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, spherical tokamak, plasma, Energy

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Earthlings fight aliens with renewable energy (it could happen)

Alien spaceship looms over skyline

Researchers are working to turn hot plasma into an energy source that could provide enough energy to power all of mankind for millions of years. Seriously!

Key Points

  • The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is working on a way to provide energy to all of mankind for millions of years.
  • It uses a spherical tokamak to heat plasma to 50 million degrees.
  • It would also make a great weapon against alien invaders. 

An alien spaceship threatens to destroy life as we know it. But the extraterrestrials retreat when earthlings use their spherical tokamak to shoot plasma five to 10 times hotter than the sun at the little green guys, ending the threat to all mankind.

Sound like a summer blockbuster? Nope. It’s not even a little bit made up. No fiction here, folks. One hundred percent true.

Well, maybe there’s a tiny bit of fiction there.

But scientists at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory really do have something called a spherical tokamak. It’s a fusion reactor that can heat plasma to 50 million degrees.

The researchers are conducting experiments to turn that hot plasma into an energy source that could provide enough energy to power all of mankind for millions of years.

The team recently spent $94 million in federal funds to improve the spherical tokamak, but it will likely be decades before the technology can be used to power cities.

But until then, at least we’re covered if aliens attack.  


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Unlikely source of energy: air pollution

What if the air pollution coming out of your car could be captured and turned into energy? Almost sounds too good to be true. But researchers in Canada are working on new technology ...

Tagged: clean energy, pollution, CO2, H2

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Unlikely source of energy: air pollution

Traffic jam

It’s like a quadruple Salchow jump into a triple toe loop for clean energy.

Key Points

  • The air pollution coming out of your car could be used to make energy.
  • New technology can suck CO2 out of the air.
  • That CO2 can then be combined with H2 to make fuel for energy.

What if the air pollution coming out of your car could be captured and turned into energy? Almost sounds too good to be true. But researchers in Canada are working on new technology that could do just that.

They developed a way to suck air into a magic machine, take most of the carbon out of it and then blow clean air out of the other side. It includes a liquid that absorbs the CO2, trapping it in a solution that can be processed. Here’s a video that explains the magic. It also features a man referring to himself as a “Calgarian.” Worth a view.

Taking air pollution out of the air is an impressive feat. But this company is in Calgary and is channeling its inner Brian Boitano: going for the gold. It wants to take that CO2 and combine it with H2 to make fuel. That fuel can then be used to make energy. That energy would emit some C02, but guess what? Yep, they would capture it again and make more energy.

It’s like a quadruple Salchow jump into a triple toe loop for clean energy. Because that is, in fact, what Brian Boitano would do. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Energy Tip

CHOOSE PLACEMENT WISELY.

Do not place lamps or television sets near your thermostat. The thermostat senses heat from appliances, and that might cause the A/C to run longer than necessary.

How to save energy this Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July! Independence Day food is the best. Burgers. Hot dogs. Watermelon. Potato Salad. Beans. And, it turns out this food fare is also good for your utility bill.

It’s ...

Tagged: Energy Efficiency, grill, Independence Day

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How to save energy this Independence Day

Summertime picnic

Make sure to give your oven a break today and keep your cooking in the backyard to save on your home cooling.

Key Points

  • Grilling outside can help save energy.
  • Warm ovens make your A/C work harder.
  • Make sure to stock your fridge full of potato salad too. For America. 

Happy Fourth of July! Independence Day food is the best. Burgers. Hot dogs. Watermelon. Potato Salad. Beans. And, it turns out this food fare is also good for your utility bill.

It’s all about the grill. Make sure to give your oven a break today and keep your cooking in the backyard to save on your home cooling. Air conditioners have to work extra hard to keep a house cool with a hot oven heating up the kitchen.

Having a fully stocked fridge helps too. The more food that’s in there, the less air for your fridge to cool. So go ahead and make the extra big batch of potato salad. Because you love ‘Murica.

Finally, warm those beans up in a slow cooker instead of using the stove top or oven. It won’t release as much heat into your kitchen and uses less energy to keep your food warm.

Now happy eating. Because nothing says “I love America” more than gaining five patriotic holiday pounds. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Your first name.

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