Volkswagen’s comeback will be electric

Did you hear that Volkswagen is bringing the microbus back?

Only this time, it will be all electric with semi-self-driving capability.

And in a strange twist, ...

Tagged: Electric Vehicles, volkswagen, microbus

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Volkswagen’s comeback will be electric

Volkswagen microbus toy being held on the beach

So even though the microbus won’t be released until 2022, I decided to find out how feasible it would really be to go electric.

Key Points

  • Volkswagen is bringing the microbus back.
  • This time it will be all electric.
  • Getting an electric vehicle can have some perks and challenges. 

Did you hear that Volkswagen is bringing the microbus back?

Only this time, it will be all electric with semi-self-driving capability.

And in a strange twist, it’s really appealing to surfer dudes and middle-aged moms.

When I saw the story, I immediately started to dream about my future life as a microbus owner. We’d haul bikes and skis around for endless outdoor adventures. My daughters would name it after a cartoon character like Blaze, and I’d yell “everybody load up. Blaze is ready for some speed!”

But then I realized that if it’s all electric, I wouldn’t even know how to plan a trip to make sure I had enough charge to make it across my mostly rural state.

So even though the microbus won’t be released until 2022, I decided to find out how feasible it would really be to go electric.

Here’s what I found out:

  1. On road trips, map out your next charge. The Department of Energy recommends using this link to find fueling stations. The good news? It’s a nice tool. The bad news? The charging stations offered are pretty slim along my usual road trip routes. Even with the microbus’s 270-mile range, I might be pushing it to make it to the next public charging station. But as electric vehicles grow in popularity, by 2022, hopefully there will be more charging station options.
  2. Be good to your battery. You can make your battery last a little longer by easing up on the use of things like the A/C, entertainment centers and other accessories. But because I’m driving a microbus, I don’t need an A/C because clearly I’m already very cool. 
  3. Enjoy the perks. Of course there will be the obvious perks of ultimate hipness (Is that a California surfer or a Midwestern mother of two wearing mom jeans? Hard to tell.). But there are other perks that come with owning an electric vehicle. Some states let you drive in the carpool lane, even if you’re all alone. Some stadiums and other major destinations give electric vehicles primo parking spots. An extra perk for the microbus is that the batteries and electric engine are under the floor of the bus, making the interior more spacious. That frees up space for surf boards or, say, five ballet costumes for one spring dance recital.
  4. Consider the costs. To see what you’ll save on your fuel costs by using an electric vehicle instead of a gas-powered one, check out this link that calculates your cost per eGallon,. According to the Department of Energy, the price of an eGallon tells consumers how much it costs to drive an EV the same distance you could go on a gallon of unleaded gasoline in a similar car.

I’ll have to dream about the Volkswagen microbus for a few more years. Until then, hang 10. … See? I’m getting cooler just thinking about owning it.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree 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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Back to school means back to energy savings

I love back-to-school time.

I mean LOVE it.

Even as a kid, I would count down the days until school started again and then would lie in bed, wide awake, too excited ...

Tagged: back to school, save energy, school supplies

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Back to school means back to energy savings

Preteen points to drawing of light bulb on a chalkboard

What I don’t remember is how much everything costs. All those glue sticks, back packs and markers can really add up. Thankfully, having the kids at school all day might lead to some energy savings at home to help offset some of those expenses.

Key Points

  • Back to school expenses can add up, but energy savings can help offset them.
  • After the kids are away at school all day, a few changes at home can save energy.
  • Opt for energy efficient tech, unplug unused devices and adjust the temp while kids are away.

I love back-to-school time.

I mean LOVE it.

Even as a kid, I would count down the days until school started again and then would lie in bed, wide awake, too excited to sleep the night before the first day.

And now that my kids are in school, I get to buy school supplies again and even go sit in a tiny desk for kindergarten orientation.

It’s just as much fun as I remember.

What I don’t remember is how much everything costs. All those glue sticks, back packs and markers can really add up.

Thankfully, having the kids at school all day might lead to some energy savings at home to help offset some of those expenses.

 Here are a few tips to help:

Opt for energy efficient tech

My kindergartener probably won’t need a computer this year to write her dissertation about how to do a perfect cartwheel. But older students might start to require extra hardware at home — like printers and computers. According to the Department of Energy, an Energy Star-approved monitor can save you as much 90 percent since this tends to be a device that’s on frequently. Check for the Energy Star label on all your electronics to save some energy and money.

Unplug

Even if all your electronic devices are considered energy efficient, they still use some energy even when not in use. Unplug things like video game consoles, iPods and laptops when no one is using them to avoid wasting energy. You could save 5-10 percent on your total household electricity bill.

Adjust the temp at home

Now that the kids are away during the day, you can raise your thermostat a bit when it’s warm outside and lower it a few degrees when it’s cooler out. You can save 4-8 percent on your cooling or heating with each degree you change it.

Now go ahead and get yourself a few new, freshly sharpened No. 2 pencil. You know you want to.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree 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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Are you ready for the ‘Super Bowl of the Sky’?

Today’s the day!

Time to bust out your stylish eclipse glasses, head to the closest community in the path of totality, and belt out your own rendition of “A total eclipse ...

Tagged: eclipse, total eclipse of the heart, solar, Natural Gas

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Are you ready for the ‘Super Bowl of the Sky’?

Total solar eclipse August 21, 2017

Think of the moon as that tall guy with a big head who sits right in front of you at the movie theater. But since solar panels need sunlight to make energy, when the moon blocks the sun, it will do more than just block the view.

Key Points

  • Today is the solar eclipse.
  • Thanks to advanced planning, most of us won’t even notice the dip in solar energy available.
  • Natural gas is expected to help compensate for the lost solar energy.

Today’s the day!

Time to bust out your stylish eclipse glasses, head to the closest community in the path of totality, and belt out your own rendition of “A total eclipse … of the sun.”

And don’t even pretend that you’ve never sung the lyric “turn around bright eyes” in the car when no one was watching.

While we’re out gazing at what has been called the “Super Bowl of the Sky,” energy providers will be working behind the scenes to make sure electricity is still available — even when solar energy goes off line.

Think of the moon as that tall guy with a big head who sits right in front of you at the movie theater. But since solar panels need sunlight to make energy, when the moon blocks the sun, it will do more than just block the view.

At the movies when you can’t see the screen, you might change seats to see better. But energy companies can’t just move their solar panels to peer around the moon. They have to find an alternative source to make energy. Most providers will depend on natural gas-powered turbines to fill in the gaps.

The Department of Energy believes that thanks to lots of advanced planning, most of us won’t even notice the dip in solar energy:

“The National Renewable Energy Laborabory (NREL) conducted a study of Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) territory, which covers the vast majority of the Mountain and Pacific Time zones including 14 Western states.

“Examining the WECC as a whole, and assuming the worst case scenario — a bright and sunny day — the rolling effects of the eclipse are expected to have the biggest impact at approximately 10:30 a.m., when PV output is projected to drop 5 GW below typical generation levels. This represents the amount of energy needed to power approximately 1 million homes and, if not already anticipated, could create difficulties for portions of the grid network that use solar to meet a significant fraction of electricity demand during the day. The burden of compensating for the lost energy from solar generators will fall mostly on natural gas powered turbines, which are able to ramp up ahead of the eclipse.” 

And thank goodness they planned ahead to make sure the electrons will keep flowing. It would have really hurt my viewing party’s mojo if I couldn’t crank up Spotify and bust out “once upon a time I was falling in love, now I’m only falling apart …”

Enjoy the total eclipse of the sun.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree 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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Are you ready for saliva-activated electricity?

You know that feeling you get right before you bite into a cupcake? As you smell the sweet vanilla and gaze at the fluffy frosting, you might even drool a little before it hits your ...

Tagged: saliva, alternative energy, LED, microwatt, Bingham University, SUNY

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Are you ready for saliva-activated electricity?

Sisters eyeing up cupcakes

Researchers created a battery that is activated by a single drop of saliva. It uses microbial fuel cells to convert the movement made during oxidation into electrical energy.

Key Points

  • Your saliva can do more than help digest cupcakes.
  • It could help make energy.
  • Researchers created a bacteria-powered battery. 

You know that feeling you get right before you bite into a cupcake? As you smell the sweet vanilla and gaze at the fluffy frosting, you might even drool a little before it hits your lips. Well, it turns out all that saliva is good for more than just digesting baked goods. It can help make energy.

Researchers at Binghamton University and State University of New York, created a battery that is activated by a single drop of saliva. It uses microbial fuel cells to convert the movement made during oxidation into electrical energy. The battery is paper-based, so it's cheap to produce and very portable.

It doesn’t make very much energy – only a few microwatts per square centimeter - but it’s enough to light an LED. The researchers believe that when power from the grid isn’t available, it could be a good back-up power source for things like water quality monitors. It could also be used for point-of-care diagnostic biosensors.

Your saliva can’t exactly replace coal, natural gas or solar energy, but in our book, all advances in electricity generation are a win. The Binghamton team is working on ways to improve the battery’s power performance and if successful, you could be putting your saliva to good use soon. In the meantime, I think I’ll get ready by having another cupcake. Or two ...

To learn more, check out the full research paper in the journal Advanced Material Technologies

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Keep those pipes hot for energy savings

“Nice pipes!”

Maybe you heard this when sporting your favorite tank top this summer (we can discuss the cost of tickets to the “gun show” later).

But ...

Tagged: saving energy, water heater, insulation, diy project

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Keep those pipes hot for energy savings

Little boy shows off his muscles

When heated water leaves your water heater, it can lose some of its warmth on the path there. Cold pipes cool down the water. But insulated pipes help keep the water hot.

Key Points

  • Insulate your hot water pipes to save energy.
  • Insulated pipes can raise water temperature 2-4 degrees.
  • That means you can lower your water temp setting and use less energy.

“Nice pipes!”

Maybe you heard this when sporting your favorite tank top this summer (we can discuss the cost of tickets to the “gun show” later).

But you could soon earn this complement for your hot water pipes.

According to the Department of Energy, insulating your hot water pipes could help you save energy, especially as we start to look toward colder-weather months.

When heated water leaves your water heater, it can lose some of its warmth on the path there. Cold pipes cool down the water. But insulated pipes help keep the water hot.

Bonus perk: Insulated pipes will also help your shower get hot faster, saving you some time and helping you conserve water.

The energy savings come from being able to lower the water temperature on your water heater. Since you’re not losing heat during delivery, the water can start out a little cooler. This lower setting uses less energy since your heater won’t have to work quite so hard to reach the lower temp.

This DIY project should take you about three hours and cost $10-15 in materials.

Here’s a handy shopping list:

  • Tape measure (Note: If your ability level is at the point you have to go purchase a tape measure, you might want to also call your dad/handy aunt/friend who you saw use a screwdriver at least once.)
  • Pipe sleeves or strips of fiberglass insulation (And no, pool noodles don’t count.)
  • Acrylic or duct tape or cable ties to secure the sleeves or aluminum foil tape or wire to secure the fiberglass pipe-wrap (Bonus points if you can make the hardware sales associate say “aluminum linoleum” 10 times fast.)
  • Gloves and long sleeves and pants if you’re using fiberglass pipe-wrap
  • Scissors, box cutter or utility knife for cutting insulation
  • Headlamp or light if you’re working in crawl space or dark area

And here’s a great step-by-step video:

If everything goes well, you’ll soon be enjoying energy savings and wasting less time waiting for the shower to warm up.

Maybe you can use those extra minutes bulking up your other pipes.

Tickets to the gun show just got a little steeper.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree 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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These undercover charging stations could crack the case for EVs

In true summer blockbuster form, undercover cops are often the cinematic heroes.

But this summer, there’s a new star to cheer for.

The undercover charging station.

You ...

Tagged: Electric Vehicles, Grid, Charging Stations

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These undercover charging stations could crack the case for EVs

Blueprints of an electric vehicle at a charging station

So, the company developed a small charger. It’s so small that it can be installed into everyday things that are already in a community.

Key Points

  • New technology might make electric vehicle charging stations cheaper to install.
  • Using existing structures cuts down on costs and makes stations more accessible.
  • They also use a slow charge, which will help level out electric demand on the grid. 

In true summer blockbuster form, undercover cops are often the cinematic heroes.

But this summer, there’s a new star to cheer for.

The undercover charging station.

You read that right: Charging. Station.

German startup company Ubitricity is coming up with solutions to make electric vehicle charging stations cheaper to install and easier on the power grid.

So, the company developed a small charger. It’s so small that it can be installed into everyday things that are already in a community.

For instance, London just installed 82 of the chargers into streetlights. These chargers are cheaper to install since they rely on existing structures instead of having to build a complete charging station from the ground up.

These small devices offer electric vehicle owners who live in urban areas a place to charge up if they don’t have a garage or an accessible outlet at home.

A vehicle would generally need to be plugged in overnight to fill the battery using the pint-size stations. But that might actually be a good thing for the electric grid.

Big spikes in electric demand from quick chargers can strain the grid. These low-power charging stations help avoid those spikes and would generally use electricity at low-use times, like in middle of the night.

There aren’t any undercover street light charging stations in the U.S. yet (that we know of anyway, but, you know, they are undercover, so we could be wrong). The company is hoping to expand to cities in the U.S. soon. And that’s a plotline worth seeing.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree 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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Scientists shake it off, shake it off, for savings

I, I shake it off, I shake it off.

Imagine a bunch of scientists in white coats jamming out to Taylor Swift in the lab while working on ground-breaking research.

Clearly, ...

Tagged: laundry, Energy Efficiency

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Scientists shake it off, shake it off, for savings

Woman juggles laundry

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are using vibrations to dry clothes. No heat needed. No lint left behind. And it is up to five times more energy efficient. Oh, and it cuts the drying time in half.

Key Points

  • A new dryer scientists developed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory shakes the water out of your clothes.
  • Eliminating the need for heat, these new dryers are up to five times more efficient than traditional models.
  • They also take half the time to dry clothes and leave little lint behind. 

I, I shake it off, I shake it off.

Imagine a bunch of scientists in white coats jamming out to Taylor Swift in the lab while working on ground-breaking research.

Clearly, only Taylor could inspire researchers to come up with a way to revolutionize dryers to shake the water out of clothes.

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are using vibrations to dry clothes. No heat needed. No lint left behind. And it is up to five times more energy efficient. Oh, and it cuts the drying time in half. 

If these new dryers make it to a store near you, investing in one could help you save energy and money.

Check out the new dryer in action:

In the meantime, here are some tips from the Department of Energy to keep your old dryer safe and efficient:

  • Wash and dry full loads. If you’re washing a small load, use the appropriate water-level setting.
  • Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight clothes.
  • Don't over-dry your clothes. If your machine has a moisture sensor, use it.
  • Clean the lint screen in the dryer after every load to improve air circulation and prevent fire hazards.
  • Periodically, use the long nozzle tip on your vacuum cleaner to remove the lint that collects below the lint screen in the lint screen slot of your clothes dryer.
  • Use the cool-down cycle to allow the clothes to finish drying with the heat remaining in the dryer.
  • Periodically inspect your dryer vent to make sure it’s not blocked. This will save energy and may prevent a fire. Manufacturers recommend using rigid venting material — not plastic vents that may collapse and cause blockages.
  • Consider air-drying clothes on clothes lines or drying racks. Air drying is recommended by clothing manufacturers for some fabrics.

Now back to those dancing scientists. Remember that the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, but I, for one, am very impressed with your work. Keep it up.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree 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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Car talk: Electric vehicles in news

Electric vehicles are making more news than a Kardashian sister this month. Here’s a roundup of the biggest headlines.

Electric vehicles are going to take over the auto ...

Tagged: Electric Vehicles

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Car talk: Electric vehicles in news

Line of electric vehicles all charging

Bloomberg New Energy Finance released a report that predicts electric vehicles will start to cost the same as their conventional car counterparts by about 2025 thanks to price drops for lithium-ion batteries.

Key Points

  • Electric vehicles are all over the news.
  • Volvo seems amped up on electric, and Tesla’s Model 3 is here.
  • A new report is more optimistic about electric vehicles than ever before. 

Electric vehicles are making more news than a Kardashian sister this month. Here’s a roundup of the biggest headlines.

Electric vehicles are going to take over the auto industry — Bloomberg New Energy Finance released a report that predicts electric vehicles will start to cost the same as their conventional car counterparts by about 2025 thanks to price drops for lithium-ion batteries. The authors expect electric vehicles to account for more than half of all new car sales by 2040. Read an interesting article about it from Fast Company here, and see the full report here.

Volvo is doubling down on electric — The Swedish automaker recently announced that starting in 2019, every car it manufactures will be electrified in some capacity. It really charged some people up. Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson called it “the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car.” Read more about it from Popular Mechanics here. Some critics let sparks fly and accused Volvo’s PR peeps of going into overdrive since the company would have had to do something like this to meet European emissions requirements anyway. Read a good breakdown of what Volvo’s announcement means for the industry here.

Elon Musk got a new car — And it’s not just any car. It’s the first Tesla Model 3. Thirty more drivers will do the Electric Slide at a big launch party on July 28, and then production on the $35,000 electric vehicle will ramp up in the fall and winter. According to Bloomberg, if Tesla meets its targets, it will build more battery-powered cars next year than all of the world’s automakers combined in 2016. Read more here.

And now you’re “plugged in” to the electric car industry.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree 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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4 ways to stay cool that don’t involve your A/C

My daughters have it so easy. They hardly break a sweat on the hottest days as they play in our air conditioned-house.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have an A/C. To stay ...

Tagged: summer, saving energy, air conditioning, heat

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4 ways to stay cool that don’t involve your A/C

Little girl in goggles plays in the sprinkler

Homeowners spend $11 billion every year to power their air conditioners, and about 6 percent of the average household’s energy use goes to space cooling.

Key Points

  • Consider other ways of keeping your cool that don’t involve air conditioning.
  • Keep hot air out of your house by closing curtains and sealing cracks.
  • Avoid using appliances like your oven to keep the heat out of your house.

My daughters have it so easy. They hardly break a sweat on the hottest days as they play in our air conditioned-house.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have an A/C. To stay cool, we opened windows at night, shuttered up the house during the day and hunkered down in the basement.

I also walked uphill, both ways, to school, but that’s another story.

Homeowners spend $11 billion every year to power their air conditioners, and about 6 percent of the average household’s energy use goes to space cooling. If you want to save some serious energy — and money — this summer, consider going old school with these non-AC cooling strategies.

  1. Skip the oven — Don’t heat your home with appliances. Take it outside and use a grill on hot days.
  2. Shut the curtains — It might be a little dreary, but close the blinds or curtains to prevent solar heat gain.
  3. Check for leaks — Insulate your attic and walls, and seal cracks and openings to prevent warm air from leaking into your home.

4.Ventilate:

  • Natural ventilation — Natural ventilation relies on the wind to create a “chimney effect” to cool a home. A simple natural ventilation strategy is opening windows to create a cross-wise breeze.
  • Fans — Fans circulate air in a room, creating a wind chill effect that makes occupants more comfortable. Fans for cooling come in a variety of options, including ceiling, table, floor and wall-mounted.
  • Whole house fans — These fans pull air in through windows and exhaust it through a home’s attic and roof. To ensure proper sizing and safety, professionals should install whole house fans.

Get more cooling tips from the Department of Energy.

And when all else fails, do what my brother, sister and I did to survive the heat growing up: Run through a sprinkler, eat a popsicle, or sing the entire Amy Grant “Heart in Motion” album into a blowing fan so you sound like a singing ‘90’s pop-star robot, taking “staying cool” to a whole new level.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree 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.

Separating energy fact from fiction

Sometimes it’s easy to tell when something isn’t true — like when my daughter tried to convince my husband that “mommy always lets me brush my hair with steak knives.”

Other ...

Tagged: energy solutions, renewables, science

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Separating energy fact from fiction

Crazy scientist plays with magnets to shocking results.

Energy is a complex issue, and some scientists are concerned that trying to simplify it into one magic-bullet solution might actually hurt some of the advancements in engineering and technology that we still need to continue improving our energy mix.

Key Points

  • When something seems too good to be true, there’s probably more to the story.
  • Wine can’t replace your gym membership, and there’s no magic bullet to solve all our energy problems.
  • Hopefully, more in-depth conversations will support the technology and engineering advancements we need to find solutions. 

Sometimes it’s easy to tell when something isn’t true — like when my daughter tried to convince my husband that “mommy always lets me brush my hair with steak knives.”

Other times, it’s a little trickier to tell fact from fiction — like studies that show drinking wine has as many health benefits as going to the gym, coconut oil is poison or coffee cures cancer.

These headlines usually require more in-depth analysis to figure out what they really mean. Sure, wine might have some health benefits, but does that really mean you should trade in your gym membership for a wine of the month club (no matter how enticing that sounds)?

Studies about the future of our country’s energy mix are no exception. A popular study published a few years ago talked about how America could easily switch to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

The author, Mark Jacobson of Stanford, believes that we could use mostly wind and solar — and keep energy affordable — if certain political policies were changed.

Although that sounds as good as skipping the gym for a glass of wine, now many scientists have added to that conversation, questioning Jacobson’s statistics and conclusions.

Energy is a complex issue, and some scientists are concerned that trying to simplify it into one magic-bullet solution might actually hurt some of the advancements in engineering and technology that we still need to continue improving our energy mix.

Here’s an interesting article outlining Jacobson’s study and some of the questions that have come up from the scientific community — including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the International Energy Agency, and most of academia who see a need for energy diversity including nuclear, hydro, and some natural gas.

In short, always question the toddler holding a knife (who, for the record, really isn’t allowed to comb her hair with sharp objects), keep your gym membership, and read the fine print. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree 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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Wind energy: When ‘more is better’ doesn’t apply

My daughters and I like to take things up a notch in the kitchen. Our chocolate chip cookies have an extra scoop of chips. Our banana bread weighs more than my 2-year-old from all ...

Tagged: wind energy, wind turbines, baking

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Wind energy: When ‘more is better’ doesn’t apply

Toddler tips baking bowl up over her face and head

After winds get opening-scene-from-Mary Poppins strong, the turbines eventually shut down to keep the blades from spiraling out of control and causing damage.

Key Points

  • June marks the beginning of hurricane season.
  • All that extra wind isn’t necessarily a good thing for wind energy.
  • Wind turbines turn off during extremely high winds to avoid damage. 

My daughters and I like to take things up a notch in the kitchen. Our chocolate chip cookies have an extra scoop of chips. Our banana bread weighs more than my 2-year-old from all the bonus banana mush we include. And at Christmas, Santa gets to choose from a buffet of cookies decorated with enough sprinkles and frosting to put him in a sugar coma.

But this “more is better” approach doesn’t work for everything in life. 

Exhibit A: Wind.

Hurricane season started this month, marking six months of severe storms and high winds. All those extremely blustery days must be great for wind turbines, right?

Well, not always.

 Turbines have a sweet spot to make energy. The wind speed needs to be at least 6-9 miles per hour to get the blades turning. As the wind speed increases, the blades turn more quickly, producing more energy. But once the wind reaches what’s known as a rated speed, the amount of energy produced flat lines even as wind speeds go up.

After winds get opening-scene-from-Mary Poppins strong, the turbines eventually shut down to keep the blades from spiraling out of control and causing damage.

That point of “whoa, this is more wind than I can handle” varies by turbine. It’s kind of like those extra chocolate chips; an extra scoop gives you amazing cookies. Two scoops gives you cookie dough that won’t stick together because it’s basically a bowl of chocolate. #experience.

Turbines have anemometers that measure wind speed (and yes, you should definitely work that word into a casual conversation today). Once the anemometer detects that winds have died down enough, then they’ll get the turbine back to work again.

Want to learn more? Check out this animation from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy about how wind turbines work.

And here’s the banana bread recipe Annie was working on in this picture. We recommend adding an extra banana. Or two. But not three.

It’s all about that sweet spot.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree 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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