Category: carbon neutrality

Reducing your Costs and your Carbon Footprint – A Case Study

I am speaking at the it@cork Green IT breakfast event tomorrow morning (5th March ’08). My presentation is “Reducing your Costs and your Carbon Footprint – A Case Study” and I will be using CIX as a case study on how innovative thinking can lower your carbon footprint and your costs.

The event kicks off at 07:45 in the Cork International Hotel, at Cork Airport and the other speakers are James Governor of RedMonk, whose talk is titled “The Sustainability Imperative: Towards Greener Software” and Mike Hughes of Microsoft Ireland who is going to talk about Windows Vista energy conservation features.

Should be a good event (and you get breakfast!).

Shai Agassi's Better Place project explained

In my post about the DLD conference yesterday I showed the video of Shai Agassi’s presentation because I thought it was an amazingly good idea, well explained.

However, when I checked out Shai’s blog I found the following video of kids doing a far better job getting Shai’s idea across (sorry Shai!).

It is a three minute video. Watch it. You’ll be glad you did!

Then head over to Project Better Place, check it out and get involved.

My interview published on Channel 9

When I was in Barcelona for TechEd last year Charles Torre did a video interview with me. We had a wide ranging chat about data centre energy efficiency strategies, blogs/blogging and the Death Star!

Charles emailed me last night to let me know that the interview has now been published on Channel 9 (Channel 9 is a very high trafficked online forum where videos are posted and discussions on those videos take place).

It has already been viewed over 600 times!

The player is SilverLight and doesn’t appear to work on the Mac for some reason but there is a link to a .wmv version of the video so you can download and watch locally.

My Web 2.0 Expo Keynote presentation on reducing our carbon footprint

I’m back in Cork after giving one of the keynote addresses at the Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin on Wednesday and speaking on a blogging panel at Microsoft’s TechEd in Barcelona on Thursday.

I didn’t create any formal presentation for the blogging panel in Barcelona but for anyone who might be interested, I uploaded my Web 2.0 Expo Keynote presentation to SlideShare:

Al Gore and IPCC jointly win Nobel Peace prize

I see Reuters are reporting that Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have jointly been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The winners were chosen from 181 entries.

This adds even more weight and credibility to the fantastic work being done by the IPCC and the long crusade Al Gore has waged on this very important topic.

No James, we Irish are not complete gobshites

Or if we are, it is not for the reasons James thinks! James Corbett has a post today on his blog asking “Are we Irish complete gobshites?“. The post is lamenting the fact that we are not building wind farms to reduce our dependence on oil imports.

I would answer James in the comment section on his blog but

  1. the answer is complex and
  2. he has deployed a CAPTCHA on his blog which means commenting there is a pain 😛

I have talked about this in several of my talks about reducing ITs carbon footprint.

There are >2gW of outstanding applications for windfarms to come onto the electrical grid in Ireland. To put that in context, we typically use around 4.5gW of power in Ireland (fluctuating day/night and summer/winter, obviously). However, these applications are being held at bay by eirgrid, the grid management company.

Why are they holding these applications at bay? Are they rabidly anti-green? Maybe they are pro climate-change? No, the reason Eirgrid don’t want any more wind power on the grid is because it de-stabilises the network.

Consider the following scenario. It is 2am. Electricity demand across the country is at its lowest. There is a 40mph wind blowing across the country. Wind energy at this point can be supplying up to 30% of the country’s demand.

What happens now if the wind picks up to 50mph? The wind farms shut down to protect their mechanisms and suddenly Eirgrid are left scrambling trying to bring gas turbine stations online to meet the sudden fall-off of 30% of their supply. Gas turbine stations can take up to an hour to reach full generation capacity.

The more windfarms Eirgrid take onto the network, the greater a problem this becomes. Unless there was some kind of ready counter-balance to the instability of wind farms…

New battery technology imminent?

I was reading a report on Ars Technica today about an emerging battery technology which could totally change how we use batteries today.

The breakthrough comes from using capacitors as batteries. Up until now this has not been feasible because there hasn’t been a strong enough insulator to make this approach compelling. However, EEstor, the company who have made the breakthrough have applied for a patent for a highly insulated capacitor.

In their patent application, it suggests that:

the charge storage is much higher than anything achieved in an academic lab: 52 kilowatt-hours in a 2,000 cubic inch capacitor array. A rough conversion calculation suggests that this is over 10 times the power density of standard lead-acid batteries.

The Ars Technica article goes on to note that:

the Associated Press is reporting that the ZENN Motor Company, which makes compact electric cars, plans to start using the capacitors before the year is out. The company has invested in EEStar in return for production goals being met and so is in a position to know how realistic its claims are

If this has any basis in fact, it could have incredible consequences for the reduction of carbon emissions from transport and from the environment in general with the reduction in the use of the particularly nasty chemicals which currently go to make up batteries.

Using I.T. to add green power to the network

The problem with wind power is that its production is variable and difficult to predict. From the perspective of a power supply company, such a supplier is unreliable and likely to de-stabilise the power network.

For instance, at 2am in Ireland, when the demand for electricity is near its lowest, if a 40mph wind is blowing across the country, wind can be supplying up to 30% of the demand. However, if the wind picks up to 50mph, the wind farms shut down to protect their mechanisms and suddenly you lose 30% of your supply! The electricity supply companies have to scramble to bring power stations online to meet the sudden fall off.

In CIX, we have come up with a strategy for Data Centre’s to act as a flywheel for electricity supply companies. This will allow the supply companies to greatly increase the amount of green energy they buy. And if the Data Centre’s are burning biodiesel then you are in a win-win situation .

It seems we are not alone in our thinking – Google, no-less, has come up with a similar strategy using cars! Yes cars. You’d think that with all their data centres they’d use them in the way we propose but they have decided to go the ‘vehicle to grid’ route for now.

Google’s strategy is modify hybrid cars so that they can consume power from the grid. These new ‘plug-in hybrids’ achieve 70-100mpg.

These plug-in hybrids take power from the grid overnight at times of low demand, say. Then the batteries in these cars, which store electricity, can ‘sell’ electricity back to the grid at times of high demand.

Check out the Google video on this to see what I mean:

A cute idea but one which would have to achieve massive scale before making a difference, I suspect.

Tax on company cars causes increased carbon emissions!

I was speaking to a sales rep yesterday who was driving a company car. He told me about the Irish government’s scheme to tax people for receipt of company cars. It is called Benefit in Kind (BiK).

Basically, if your employer gives you a company car, you are liable to pay 30% of the original market value of the car in tax (the original market value includes the amount the government already collects in VRT!).

However, if you do more than 15,000 per annum, the amount of BiK you have to pay drops. The more mileage you do, the less BiK you have to pay (up to a ceiling at 30,000 miles).

Sounds fair, you might say. These people are using the cars the company gave them.

Possibly, until you realise that what this law does is incentivise company car owners to use their cars more to drive to meetings (for example) where they might otherwise have taken a more carbon friendly alternative (telecon anyone?). The rep I was talking to said he will preferentially drive anywhere to get his mileage up!

If you want to tax company cars, why not do it on the basis of their carbon footprint (or engine size if that rating isn’t easy to come by). Something like €500 for cars 1.6L and less; €2,500 for 1.6L to 2L; €6,000 for 2L to 3L and €12,000 for 3L and above index linked.