Bring on the burritos: Food trucks just got even better

There’s something about food trucks.

Maybe it’s that it gets you outside to enjoy a meal.

Or maybe it’s the novelty of hunting down your favorite meal on ...

Tagged: food trucks, Energy Efficiency, Green Energy

Expand Article

Bring on the burritos: Food trucks just got even better

Customers stand outside the windows of a food truck.

A group of students recently collaborated with a chef to come up with a better food truck design. They named it the Synergy Truck. And we’ll forgive them for the name in light of the innovative solutions they brought to the food truck scene.

Key Points

  • Food trucks are fun and yummy but not very energy efficient.
  • A group of students designed a better food truck.
  • The truck generates energy from customers’ footsteps, has solar panels and wind turbines, and even generates light from the power of gravity. 

There’s something about food trucks.

Maybe it’s that it gets you outside to enjoy a meal.

Or maybe it’s the novelty of hunting down your favorite meal on wheels’ current location.

Or maybe it’s the fact that for some reason, having fried cheese layered around your taco seems like a perfectly reasonable option when it’s prepared by a hipster with a van.

Whatever the reason, there’s something fun about heading out for a good food truck meal.

But food trucks have a downside. Sometimes it’s hard to hear the birds chirping over the humming of diesel generators lined up behind the trucks. Transportable restaurants aren’t designed to be energy efficient.

Until now.

A group of students recently collaborated with a chef to come up with a better food truck design. They named it the Synergy Truck.

And we’ll forgive them for the name in light of the innovative solutions they brought to the food truck scene.

Here are a few of the Synergy Truck’s features:

Pavegen

A walkway along the length of the truck window, generating potential energy from consumers’ footsteps as they order their food.

GravityLight

Two GravityLights hanging to generate light from the power of gravity.

Insolar

Two Insolar umbrellas around the truck fitted with solar technology to enable phones and other USB devices to be charged, as well as solar panels on the roof of the truck to help power the kitchen appliances.

Capture Mobility

A Capture Mobility turbine on top of the truck to generate power from wind energy to help power the kitchen appliances.

Bio-bean

A grill unit using bio-bean’s carbon neutral Coffee Log briquettes to cook the food and bio-bean capture unit indicating the potential energy of the coffee waste collected.

MotionECO

A MotionECO capture unit indicating the potential energy of the waste cooking oil collected.

Check out this video for more details.

So when you need a reason to eat more fried-cheese-wrapped tacos, just remind yourself: Eating from food trucks tastes good and saves energy.

Green (salsa) never tasted so good.


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: food trucks, Energy Efficiency, Green Energy

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

Expand Article

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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Pokemon, photosynthesis, Green Energy, renewable energy

A new use for old underground tunnels

There are secret underground tunnels under some of the world’s biggest cities.

OK, maybe they aren’t exactly secret. They’re the reason we have manhole covers with ...

Tagged: Green Energy, underground, pipe, Coal, oil

Expand Article

A new use for old underground tunnels

Underground street tunnel

Cities are using the piping systems that carried steam or water from coal- or oil-fired power plants to deliver green energy.

Key Points

  • Underground systems from the late 1880s are getting a new use.
  • Old pipes were used to carry steam from coal- or oil-fired power plants to buildings for heating or cooling.
  • Now many are being retrofitted to deliver “green steam.” 

There are secret underground tunnels under some of the world’s biggest cities.

OK, maybe they aren’t exactly secret. They’re the reason we have manhole covers with steam shooting out.

Back in the olden days (late 1800s), cities built piping systems that carried steam or water from coal- or oil-fired power plants to buildings for heating and cooling. It’s called district energy. Those systems are now being used to deliver green energy.

According to the National Geographic:

Widely used but rarely mentioned in conversations about how cities can slash climate-warming greenhouse gases while sustaining growth, district energy is attracting new interest. The United States alone has more than 700 of these subterranean systems, some dating back to the 1880s.

They’ve often been attached to coal- or oil-fired power plants, piping steam or water to a circuit of buildings for heating and cooling. Now many old systems are getting retrofits to deliver “green steam” generated with cleaner fuels and recovered waste heat.

“These legacy urban networks that were built back in the day by the utilities have become, fundamentally, portals for sustainable energy,” says Bill DiCroce, who leads commercial and municipal business for Veolia, a Paris-based company that operates a dozen district energy networks in North American cities including Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Montreal.

According to reports from the United Nations Environment Programme, some cities have cut energy use by up to 50 percent by using district energy. Some of the biggest users include Oslo, Tokyo and Copenhagen.

Here in the U.S., the Department of Energy is getting behind using these old systems in a new way, offering a technical assistance program and possible loan guarantees. Making them the new best-kept secret for green energy use. 


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Green Energy, underground, pipe, Coal, oil

Turn your workout into watts

Need a little extra motivation to get your cardio in?

How about if your time on that bike, elliptical or treadmill also kept the lights on? Or if you had to keep pedaling ...

Tagged: Green Energy, workouts, generating electricity

Expand Article

Turn your workout into watts

pedal power

The Green Microgym, has kits that will turn your bike into a generator. A 20-minute ride on a bike with a generator kit will produce enough energy to support two full smartphone charges

Key Points

  • Workouts are more than sweat sessions.
  • You can generate electricity with your cardio.
  • New programs are helping kids get active and learn about energy too. 

Need a little extra motivation to get your cardio in?

How about if your time on that bike, elliptical or treadmill also kept the lights on? Or if you had to keep pedaling to see the big reveal on that episode of “Fixer Upper” you’re watching while you work out? You better believe I’d pedal an extra mile or two to see how that shiplap turned out.

Green gyms are gaining popularity. And now you can even get your own eco exercise equipment for your home. One business, The Green Microgym, has kits that will turn your bike into a generator. A 20-minute ride on a bike with a generator kit will produce enough energy to support two full smartphone charges. An hour workout can fully charge your laptop.

Even if you’re not the spandex-wearing, gym-going type, the educational opportunities might sway you to get on the ecobike bandwagon. The guys with the Green Microgym recently worked on a Green Read and Ride program for an elementary school. The school is hoping to bridge the gap between learning and exercise, using an electricity-producing stationary bike as a workstation where students read, get some physical activity, and learn about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) by getting involved in the bike’s construction and energy production.

Learn more about that initiative here.

And by the way, the shiplap looked amazing.


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Green Energy, workouts, generating electricity

Two things you need to know about Starbucks

Stop everything. You need to hear this breaking Starbucks news.

First and foremost, the toasted graham latte is now ...

Tagged: Starbucks, Green Energy, renewable energy, The Climate Group, RE100

Expand Article

Two things you need to know about Starbucks

Starbucks latte

Starbucks made a pledge to use all renewable energy. The coffee giant is promising to go 100 percent green as part of The Climate Group’s global initiative RE100.

Key Points

  • Starbucks is now offering a toasted graham latte.
  • Oh, and it pledged to start using all renewable energy too.
  • It’s part of The Climate Group’s global initiative “RE100”

Stop everything. You need to hear this breaking Starbucks news.

First and foremost, the toasted graham latte is now available. And it will change your Pumpkin Spice Latte life.

Second, Starbucks made a pledge to use all renewable energy. Rumor has it they’re working on technology that will harness energy from the caffeine shakes. No, not really. But the coffee giant is promising to go 100 percent green as part of The Climate Group’s global initiative RE100.

Starbucks joins 36 other big corporations who have made the pledge. Companies are hoping to help the Earth and their profits.

“Research shows that the most ambitious companies have seen a 27 percent return on their low carbon investments,” said Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group.

According to CNBC, RE100 launched officially at “Climate Week NYC” in September 2014, with IKEA and Nestle being some of the debut supporters.

“The collective voice of all these businesses coming together to say they are going 100 percent renewable really sends a strong message to other businesses and policymakers; that this is the direction of travel that we are going to go in,” said Emily Farnworth, RE100 campaign director of The Climate Group.

Prefer to consume your caffeine in the privacy of your own home? We got you covered. Here are tips to make your cup of joe as energy efficient as possible.


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Starbucks, Green Energy, renewable energy, The Climate Group, RE100

Relationship status: It’s complicated

Defining a relationship is complicated. Especially when the relationship is between utilities, regulators and big business.

Facebook is working to simplify things, updating ...

Tagged: Facebook, wind power, renewable energy, Regulation, Green Energy

Expand Article

Relationship status: It’s complicated

Facebook screenshot

To build a wind-powered data center, companies like Facebook need to be in a relationship with a utility.

Key Points

  • Big companies like Facebook are trying to use more green energy.
  • It can be hard to get green projects done.
  • A new group is working with business, utilities and regulators to make it easier. 

Defining a relationship is complicated. Especially when the relationship is between utilities, regulators and big business.

Facebook is working to simplify things, updating its status from “it’s complicated” to “in a relationship” with wind power.

Its new data center will run entirely on wind power. But it hasn’t been easy getting there. Peter Freeds helps Facebook with its renewable energy efforts and recently noted in Wired Magazine that projects like this are very difficult. “It should be easier to get these kinds of things done,” he said to Wired, “and we’re seeing an increasing number of companies that want to do them.”

It took an entire year for Facebook to seal the deal on a new wind-powered data center in Texas. Facebook chose Texas for the center due in part to the state’s deregulated utility structure. In Texas, companies can choose which utility to get their power from instead of being required to purchase the energy from whatever company serves that geographic area.

Match.com for energy projects

To build a wind-powered data center, companies like Facebook need to be in a relationship with a utility. Where utilities are under a regulated system, the dating pool is pretty small: one. In unregulated systems like Texas, companies can choose the prettiest utility at the dance.

One of the biggest challenges to building a huge data center dependent on wind is finding a utility that can turn the intermittent resource into a steady flow of energy. Or, in other words, provide the center with wind when it’s available but then ramp up another resource, like natural gas, when wind isn’t available — and do it affordably.

That can be a huge undertaking and one that not all utilities and regulations are up for.

Couples counseling

Facebook is hoping to make the process easier for its, and other companies,’ future renewable energy projects by supporting the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principle. Think of it as couples counseling for regulators, utilities and businesses.

“We work with utilities and utility regulators and other stakeholders in the states to craft something that can pass through the [regulated] utility,” says Letha Tawney, who oversees the World Resource Institute’s Charge Initiative, which helps drive the Buyers’ Principles. Here’s where you can learn more about the Principles.

Thanks Facebook, for helping pave the way for more green — and hopefully affordable — energy. We like 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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Facebook, wind power, renewable energy, Regulation, Green Energy

Bill Gates on state of energy revolution

This minute-and-a-half clip from CNN is worth your time. In it, Bill ...

Tagged: Bill gates, Energy, Green Energy, carbon footprint, solar

Expand Article

Bill Gates on state of energy revolution

Bill Gates

When you buy power, what you're really buying is reliability.

Key Points

  • Hear what Bill Gates has to say about the future of energy.
  • He tells us why solar is not currently cost competitive with natural gas energy production.
  • He also touches on what needs to be done to change the system.  

This minute-and-a-half clip from CNN is worth your time. In it, Bill Gates discusses what hurdles we need to overcome for an energy revolution to happen. He discusses how we do not currently have an economic way to convert our energy system to a “zero CO2 system.”

I like how he makes the connection of how “when you’re buying power, you’re really buying reliability.” He talks about how you need, say, your hospital to have electricity all the time, even when it’s not sunny.

He notes that we need to fund thousands of entrepreneurs to drive costs down and come up with new technology to tackle this issue. 

Enjoy.



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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Bill gates, Energy, Green Energy, carbon footprint, solar

Is your binge watching killing baby polar bears?

Sorry about that. No one likes a headline that makes them think of killing baby polar bears. Unless you hate polar bears. But how could you? They’re adorable.

So of course ...

Tagged: Greenpeace, Green Energy, Internet, Apple

Expand Article

Is your binge watching killing baby polar bears?

Polar bear

Could staying up all night to re-watch season one of “Mad Men” single handedly warm the planet and melt his home?

Key Points

  • Using the internet for entertainment options uses less energy than other delivery methods.
  • But we’re consuming more overall, possibly overriding those energy savings.
  • Greenpeace praised Apple and chastised other top internet companies in a recent report about creating a green internet.  

Sorry about that. No one likes a headline that makes them think of killing baby polar bears. Unless you hate polar bears. But how could you? They’re adorable.

So of course you want to know if by chance staying up all night to re-watch season one of “Mad Men” is single handedly warming the planet and melting his home, right?

Well, I have some good news and some bad news for you. First, the good news. According to a recent report by Greenpeace, it looks like society’s move to stream our movies and shows might be using less energy than other modes of delivery (think having a Netflix DVD delivered by planes and trucks to your mailbox versus watching on your phone).

But there’s some bad news too. The report cautions that as entertainment options become more convenient, we consume more. And unfortunately, using more overall might override the energy savings.

That’s why Greenpeace is putting the pressure on Internet companies to be totally green. Not kind of green, like the color of my daughter’s finger paints after she has the artistic inspiration to mix “all the colors!” But totally green-as-my-neighbor’s-yard-that-makes-me-feel-lazy green. 

In its report “Clicking Green: A Guide to Building a Green Internet” released this month, Greenpeace praised Apple. And not just for making watches cool. The report noted Apple’s commitment to use 100 percent renewable energy and the tech giant’s transparency for reaching its goals with things like new data centers powered by solar. The company is also planning a new headquarters that, with a price tag of $900 million, will be powered by a 2,900 acre First Solar array.

Other companies didn’t fare so well. Greenpeace took Amazon and Microsoft to task for their lack of transparency and investments in renewable resources. Oracle had the worst score of the 13-company bunch.  


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Greenpeace, Green Energy, Internet, Apple

CARROLL: Energy grid not free for all

It seems counter-intuitive and more than a little greedy to spend tens of thousands of dollars building green energy facilities so you can live off the grid and then fight the power ...

Tagged: Frank Carroll, Green Energy, solar, Wind

Expand Article

CARROLL: Energy grid not free for all

Energy Grid

The people who invested in the green energy did not invest and do not invest in the development and maintenance of the grid.

Key Points

  • Distributed genereation is more affordable than it was 20 years ago.
  • Green energy producers want to be paid a premium for the grid they're not paying for.

It seems counter-intuitive and more than a little greedy to spend tens of thousands of dollars building green energy facilities so you can live off the grid and then fight the power company because they aren’t paying you for the extra power you give back to the grid.

Let’s have our cake and eat it, too. Most people invest in solar panels and wind energy to relieve themselves of the burden and insecurity of depending on the giant energy grid most of us depend upon. And it is a dependable grid. Not having power in America is not common and not tolerated for very long, even in the toughest circumstances.

Solar panels and windmills are now much more affordable then they were 20 years ago, so more of us are buying into self-sustaining energy. Just in case, most people who do live off the grid don’t cut the wires that connect us to the grid. And therein lies the rub.

Electrical meters run both ways. They measure how much energy we are using that is produced by the major energy companies. They also measure how much energy is being pumped back onto the grid by people producing green energy. So it has occurred to more than a few green energy producers that they should be paid for the energy they produce and don’t use.

The thing is, the energy they produce and don’t use is being distributed along an incredibly complex energy grid that allocates energy to homes and businesses all over the region. The people who invested in the green energy did not invest and do not invest in the development and maintenance of the grid. Yes, they pay a fee to be connected to the grid but that is their choice. They don’t have to sell the energy to the grid companies. They can cut the wires, cancel their accounts, and call it good.

To add salt to the wound, the energy companies are being asked by the serendipitous green energy producers to let them feed their green energy back to the grid and to be paid for doing so, which only makes sense if the green energy producers are willing to share a prorated share of the cost of the grid.

Green energy producers are apparently arguing they should be paid for green energy at prevailing rates but they should not have to maintain the grid that delivers the energy.

Sorry. If you want to produce green energy and run your place and maybe even your neighbors’ place, invest in a neighborhood grid, and make money producing energy by selling it like energy companies do — fine. But if you want an unexpected windfall from the already existing grid, which I pay full freight to use, then you have to pony up to maintain the grid. When the whole thing is prorated based on the actual costs of producing and distributing energy, you may find it costs you money to feed your “free” energy back to the grid.


Frank Carroll
Frank Carroll's website is blackhillsforestpros.com.
Write to him at frankcarrollpfm@gmail.com.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Frank Carroll, Green Energy, solar, Wind

Light Bulbs to Jet Engines

Since Black Hills Corporation was founded, we have pursued the latest technologies to improve life with energy. What started with introducing the conveniences of the light bulb in ...

Tagged: Generation, Natural Gas, Wind, Green Energy

Expand Article

Light Bulbs to Jet Engines

Light bulbs to jet engines

What started with introducing the conveniences of the light bulb in the 1800s has evolved into using state-of-the-art technology in our generation facilities to produce energy in an efficient, more environmentally friendly way.

Key Points

BHC's generation is state of the art.

Generation is diverse using wind, natural gas and coal as fuel.

Can supply clean energy in a reliable, efficient way.

Since Black Hills Corporation was founded, we have pursued the latest technologies to improve life with energy. What started with introducing the conveniences of the light bulb in the 1800s has evolved into using state-of-the-art technology in our generation facilities to produce energy in an efficient, more environmentally friendly way.

Just A few samples and benefits of the technologies we use at our newest facilities

WYGEN III

  • Air-cooled condensers significantly reduce power plant water consumption.
  • Site allows for future installation of carbon dioxide capture and sequestration equipment.

CHEYENNE PRAIRIE GENERATING STATION

A combined cycle unit increases the efficiency of the plant so that it can:

  • Operate at higher fuel efficiency, lowering the fuel cost.
  • Lower environmental impact.

PUEBLO GENERATION Facility’s GENERAL ELECTRIC LMS100s

  • Gas-fired LMS100 generators can dispatch electricity at ramp-up rates of 30 to 35 megawatts per minute. A coal plant has ramp-up rates of 1.5 to 3.0 megawatts per minute.
  • The units offer 10-minute start times, superior hot-day performance, load following and cycling capabilities, and reliability.

PUEBLO GENERATION Facility’s GENERAL ELECTRIC LM6000s

  • LM6000s can dispatch electricity at 20 to 25 megawatts per minute, maintain reliability at 99 percent operation, and when operated in combined cycle have a very low fuel supply heat input.
  • The units are fuel efficient, easily maintained, and ideal for regulating customer loads.

BUSH RANCH  WIND PROJECT

  • Wind generation is often considered a natural gas fuel hedge and offsets the daily peak customer demand.
  • Wind generation often leads to greater economic development in the communities we serve.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Generation, Natural Gas, Wind, Green Energy