Direct Energy Buzz for July 2014

Welcome to the July 2014 edition of the Direct Energy Buzz. The worlds of energy and technology have experienced lots of activity recently, so let’s get into it!

Get Smart Comfort, Control, and Savings with Smart Thermostats

Direct Energy wants our customers to be more energy efficient. That’s why we are now offering two new energy plans to help our customers do just that. The Comfort & Control Plan offers residents in Alberta, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio a fixed-rate energy plan featuring the Nest Learning Thermostat™ at no cost (a $249 value). Based on your behavior, the Nest Thermostat learns how you use energy and then programs itself to keep your home comfortable and help you save up to 20% on your energy usage. Plus, it’s easy to install, as three out of four customers install Nest themselves in 30 minutes. You can also have a Nest Certified Professional install it as well.

Direct Energy’s Texas customers can sign up with a Meridian Savings Plan. The Meridian Plan bundles a 24-month fixed-rate plan, up to 3 Honeywell Smart Thermostats for your home, the Meridian Smartphone App, professional installation, 20-point HVAC check (a $138 value), and customer service via phone, e-mail, or social media. You’ll have the chance to choose between 2 different thermostat options from Honeywell so that you get the right technology for your home!

Where in the US is Energy Efficiency?

Despite many green energy and energy efficiency projects and initiatives, the US lags behind many other nations. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the US ranks 13th of 16 countries – which is below top-ranked Germany, the rest of Europe, China, Japan, Canada, and Australia.

So, where’s energy efficiency really working in the US?

ACEEE’s ratings were based on state policy and programs that included utilities, transportation, building codes, CHP, and state-led initiatives. The worst states tend to be in the upper plains and deep south with the best states in the northeast or west coast. Illinois was ranked 10th due to energy efficient utility and public benefits as well as improved building codes. New York came in at 3 primarily through improvements to funding public transportation. Massachusetts grabbed the top slot for a third year for establishing energy efficiency requirements for public buildings and fleets, power utilities, and building codes.

The Power of Silk: Green Energy From Cocoons

The silk garment business just became more electrifying.

Direct Energy Buzz for July 2014

Ok. That was pretty bad. But seriously — scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur (IIT-K)have found a way to use the silk cocoons of the domesticated mulberry silkworm (Bombyx morii) and non-mulberry Tussar silkworms for making electricity in a cheap and sustainable way. Wired up in the presence of water vapor and temperatures above 80°C (176°F), cocoons actually light up a 1.6 volt LED. A cocoon was also moistened, and when charged with 12 volts DC, it managed to retain the charge —making it a “protein-based capacitor.” Meanwhile, when humidity was absent, the cocoon failed to produce electricity. Power plants could use waste heat and steam to make even more energy by scaling up the use of the protein in cocoons to generate energy.

Release the Quacken!

The Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) is part of the US-based Society for Cultural Exchange and has the goal of constructing the first large-scale public artworks that generate utility grid electricity in clean and sustainable ways. This year’s design competition for large ( if not huge) scale public art includes the Energy Duck. An homage to the common North Sea eider duck, it carries photovoltaic cells on its massive back and a stored-energy device.

Direct Energy Buzz for July 2014
A common North Sea Eider Duck

The stored energy component works this way: Stage one, the duck is floating high in the water with it’s bilge empty. Stage two, water is let into the bilge through a hydro-turbine and the electricity it generates is sent to the grid. The duck sinks to the floor of it’s mooring. Stage 3, a portion of the energy from the PV array is used to pump the water from the bilge into the sea. The duck refloats.

All told, the Energy Duck has an estimated a 100–500 kW capacity. That’s one way to reduce an electric bill. The LAGI 2014 design competition winner will be announced on October 3, 2014.

This Charger Sucks Glass

There’s few things more inconvenient than a room with big windows, no outlets, and your smart phone dying for a charge. Behold: the Port window solar charger by XDDesign (formerly xdmodo). You get a solar-powered mobile charging station that attaches to window glass with a powerful suction cup. Sure, it sounds like a Rube Goldberg lash-up, but the design is exquisite. It comes with an embedded USB port and an internal 1000 mAh rechargeable battery you can take along with you. Be sure to check out their catalogue of design coolness.

Have we missed any fun technological advances in the past few weeks? Contribute your tips and news in the comments!


Vernon Trollinger is a writer with a background in home improvement, electronics, fiction writing, and archaeology. He now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.