Blogroll Review: Grid, Bubbles, and Lead

by Frank Ling

Going off the grid
180,000 American household must be onto something if they can live without the grid. Despite the costs of setting up your own distributed generation, Richard Perez, publisher of Home Power magazine, says that this number increases by one-third each year.

On this this week’s Energy Blog, Jim Fraser says:

“180,000 homes is a very small number when compared to the total population of the U.S., but by increasing by a third each year this could turn into a more significant number. Although expensive there are millions of people who could afford it. The significance to me is that we have the technology to do it and prices are going down. The trend should really accelerate after 2010 when solar power prices start to drop significantly.”

With cleantech hot right now, there is bound to be some irrational exuberance. Some analysts now believe that there will be not one, but two clean tech bubbles.

Martin LaMonica at says:

“The surge in clean technology investment has two areas–solar photovoltaics and biofuels–where there is over-investment on the part of venture capitalists, what many people would consider a bubble.”

In addition, Maurice Gunderson, co-founder of energy investment firm Nth Power, suggests that the best bets are on transformational technologies, most of which involve new materials. He is looking at more efficient photovoltaics for solar and technologies that will make ethanol plants obsolete for biofuels.

Green Processing
Not ony is Intel committed to lower the power requirements for their processing, they are now planning to remove all lead from their chips. Nevertheless, some observers believe there is a ways to go in making the PC manufacturing process environmentally friendly.

On this week’s EcoGeek website, Philip Proefrock says:

“Unfortunately, lead is not the most egregious of these chemicals, and the CPU chip is not the greatest source of contamination inside a PC case. Brominated fire retardants among other chemicals inside the case are more worrying to us than lead is.”

Unleaded chips are cool. Now how about high octane?

Frank Ling is a postdoctoral fellow at the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at UC Berkeley. He is also a producer of the Berkeley Groks Science Show.

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