Friday, November 4, 2011

Mobile CPU chip maker ARM looking to supply chips for ultra-low-power servers

The Internet is sucking down electricity by the megawatt and all our gains from widespread communication could be lost to the energy and resource cost required to run the Internet.  We want to avoid cooking the planet (wide-spread surveys of the people say environmental issues are high on their mind) so it's best if the internet infrastructure were to be made of highly efficient machines.

Enter ARM and their ultra-low-energy-required CPU's.  ARM got its start building chips for small computers and really took off along with the cell phone boom.  Their CPU design has all sorts of goodness baked in to let cell phone operating systems keep power consumption low, to give cell phone owners long standby times.  Apparently they're now looking to apply their low energy smarts to server design and the internet infrastructure.


Currently there are two primary companies making CPU chips for servers - Intel and AMD.  AMD is largely beholden to Intel which means they don't have much freedom to innovate, which then means that the server market is basically tied to one CPU architecture.  Intel's.  Not that Intel has been able to use that power to impose new CPU architectures, as they were unable to get the market to go along with the Itanium chips.

Not only does ARM offer a low power CPU design, it offers server vendors a chip design with little in the way of licensing stranglehold and freedom to innovate.  The way this works is that ARM licenses out the basic chip design to companies that make custom ARM-compatible chips.  For example AppliedMicro is planning to manufacture chips using a next generation design from ARM that will deliver 3GHz clock speeds at the fraction of energy for an equivalent Intel chip.  At a lower price.

One of the trends in Internet technology is "cloud computing" where the idea is to automatically allocate servers to meet traffic demands.  Large website operators hope to avoid losing customers during traffic spikes by making sure they ramp up (and down) the number of servers based on traffic.  That's great for the customers but isn't so good for the environment if the servers being ramped up use high amounts of energy.

AppliedMicro in particular wants to use these ARM cpu's in "webscale" servers.

HP is partnering with Calxeda to design a line of servers using ARM-based CPU's, making them the first major server vendor to do so.

ARM recently released details of their next generation architecture which will now include 64-bit CPU design as well as the 32-bit designs they've offered for awhile.  64-bit CPU's are important in the server world in part due to large memory requirements.

The move to adoption of ARM based architectures will take awhile, perhaps not until 2014 by which time Intel may have increased the efficiency of their chips.


ARM’s new IP lets AppliedMicro make cloud servers

ARM CTO: We’re changing server economics

HP Planning ARM-Based Servers With Calxeda, Challenging Intel: Reports

The ARM v. Intel fight just got good



Thursday, November 3, 2011

White roofs do little to stop global warming, solar panels do more, says Stanford's Mark Jacobsen

A couple years ago an idea was circulating that just painting your roof white or even silver colored would stop the heat island effect.  The urban heat island is the observation that urban areas, with lots of parking lots and buildings and very few trees and green areas, have a build-up of heat.  Go a little way out of town and temperatures cool off because the vegetation and shade and whatnot naturally acts to keep temperatures cooler.  The thinking goes that many things in urban areas, like Asphalt, are dark colored and therefore high school physics says it'll absorb heat.  The solution seemed to be that simply painting things white would cut the temperature and resolve the heat island.

Cities release more heat to the atmosphere than the rural vegetated areas around them, but how much influence these urban "heat islands" have on global warming has been a matter of debate. Now a study by Stanford researchers has quantified the contribution of the heat islands for the first time, showing that it is modest compared with what greenhouse gases contribute to global warming.  The team included Mark Jacobsen who's quoted saying "Between 2 and 4 percent of the gross global warming since the Industrial Revolution may be due to urban heat islands."

Some global warming skeptics have claimed that the urban heat island effect is so strong that it has been skewing temperature measurements that show that global warming is happening.  "This study shows that the urban heat island effect is a relatively minor contributor to warming, contrary to what climate skeptics have claimed," Jacobson said. "Greenhouse gases and particulate black carbon cause far more warming."

Although his study showed that urban heat islands are not major contributors to global warming, Jacobson said reducing the effect of heat islands is still important for slowing the rise of global temperatures.

The "paint roofs white" idea was described as "geoengineering" and found that white roofs did indeed cool urban surfaces, but that they also caused a net global warming, largely because they reduced cloudiness slightly by increasing the stability of the air, thereby reducing the vertical transport of moisture and energy to clouds.

Another idea that has been circulating is that because solar panels are dark color that they'd contribute to the heat island, and that perhaps we shouldn't use solar panels.  Jacobsens study can be taken to refute this idea, and give us a green light to using solar panels.  First, solar panels generate electricity hence offsetting electricity generated from fossil fuel powered plants.  Second, they reduce sunlight absorbed by buildings (assuming the panels are installed on the building) by shielding the building while being installed on the building.  Third, solar panels do not reflect the sunlight back into the air, meaning that light won't be re-absorbed by the atmosphere pollutants.

Jacobson is the director of Stanford's Atmosphere/Energy Program and a senior fellow at Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy. Graduate student John Ten Hoeve contributed to the research and is coauthor of the paper. Funding for the research was contributed by NASA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Urban 'heat island' effect is only a small contributor to global warming, and white roofs don't help to solve the problem, say Stanford researchers


New Poll: 9 out of 10 Americans Support Solar energy / electricity


New Poll: 9 out of 10 Americans Support Solar

Survey by Kelton Research finds continued widespread public support for development of solar energy, federal incentives for solar, across political spectrum.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 1, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Americans overwhelmingly support the use and development of solar energy as well as federal incentives for solar, according to the 2011 SCHOTT Solar Barometer(TM), a nationally representative survey conducted annually by independent polling firm Kelton Research.

For the fourth consecutive year, the survey found that about nine out of 10 Americans (89 percent) think it is important for the United States to develop and use solar energy. Support for solar is strong across the political spectrum with 80 percent of Republicans, 90 percent of Independents and 94 percent of Democrats agreeing that it is important for the United States to develop and use solar.

The survey also found that more than eight out of 10 Americans (82 percent) support federal tax credits and grants for the solar industry similar to those that traditional sources of energy like oil, natural gas and coal have received for decades. Seventy-one percent of Republicans agree, as well as 82 percent of Independents and 87 percent of Democrats.

"It's clear that solar has the strong support of the American people," said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.  "Now it needs the support of U.S. policymakers in extending job-creating policies like the 1603 Treasury Program to make sure solar continues to work for America."

Furthermore, when asked to select an energy source they would financially support if they were in charge of U.S. energy policy, 39 percent of Americans chose solar over other sources such as natural gas (21 percent), wind (12 percent), nuclear (9 percent) and coal (3 percent).

"The fourth annual Solar Barometer shows that Americans overwhelmingly understand the benefits of solar energy for our country," said Tom Hecht, President, Sales, Marketing and Business Development, SCHOTT Solar PV, Inc.

Eight out of 10 Americans (82 percent) think it is important for the federal government to support U.S. solar manufacturing, according to the poll.  Also, a majority of Americans (51 percent) said they would be more likely to purchase a product if they knew it was made using solar energy.

SEIA's Full Statement:

Key Survey Findings:


ThinkEco's modlet should help you save energy with insight and information about energy usage

Do you understand how much energy you use?  Do you understand the effect of the energy you use?  You flip on a light switch, it seems so neat and clean, no sound, no fumes, no exhaust, etc.  Do you understand the difference in impact between a 100 watt incandescent lightbulb, a 40 watt compact fluorescent, or a 20 watt LED lightbulb?

The point of those questions is that it's hard to understand the impact of our actions.  In the old days when we burned candles or kerosene there was a direct impact from having light or heat.  Today the impact occurs in a far off location, at the electricity plant, at the mine the coal came from, etc.  Almost all knowledge about the impact of turning on a lightbulb is removed from the act of doing so.

Think Eco has a solution - the Modlet -


So, what's a modlet?  It's a gizmo you attach to power outlets that adds intelligence to the power outlet.  It's designed to fit directly over a normal 120 volt household power outlet (hence, those of you outside the U.S. cannot use this).  It has electronics and software on-board to let you monitor and control power usage.  The data/information is sent wirelessly to a USB dongle so your computer can read the data and let you control the power outlet.

Modlet power monitoring


Okay - great - cool - more information - let's niggle away at a few details.

Cost: $50 plus shipping.  It had better save a lot of electricity to be worth that money.  Especially because you'll be buying one per power outlet in your house.

As an add-on gizmo it means adding extra material and cost to your house.  I think this would be better to be built into power outlets rather than an add-on to power outlets.

I'd be concerned about the wattage the thing can handle.  Will it handle the full 15 amps 120 volts for a long period?  Will it handle 20 amps 120 volts that some power outlets are rated for?

Why can't you buy it through normal stores?  Why can you only buy it through the company?


ThinkEco Opens West Coast Office
ThinkEco Enterprise Solution Plugs Big Hole in Corporate Energy Waste

NEW YORK, Nov. 1, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- ThinkEco, Inc. (, a New York City-based company that develops cutting-edge hardware-software energy efficiency solutions, has opened a West Coast office. Since launching its modlet platform to businesses a year ago, ThinkEco has seen high demand for its solution amongst large enterprise clients. Today's West Coast expansion is intended to maximize benefit to large organizations by providing the modlet Enterprise Solution as a software as a service offering.

Increasingly, enterprise clients are concerned about rising utility expenses but they have little or no visibility into the consumption patterns at the plug level. With plug-loads now representing more than 30% of a commercial building's energy use, the ThinkEco Enterprise Solution provides micro-level data, analytics and control so that clients can continue to improve their energy-consumption strategies and optimize electronic asset ownership.

The Enterprise Solution is also a natural extension for managed services providers who can use it to supplement their building automation systems. It can also facilitate energy audit capabilities and help with certification processes, such as ISO, UL and USGBC LEED. The extensive tenant reach of these Managed Services Providers, combined with the flexibility of ThinkEco's Enterprise Solution, allows corporations and building owners alike to be more easily aligned in their business goals.

Heading up ThinkEco's West Coast office are John Schweizer and Daja Phillips, who each have deep expertise in the large enterprise space and have previously worked for Ricoh Company LTD. Schweizer has held leadership roles on the operating side at Global 500 companies and has diverse experience in Enterprise Sales. He will build out the sales organization to serve ThinkEco's markets. Phillips joins the team with an extensive background in start-up technology ventures for Global 500 companies. She will lead the development of strategies to maximize client and partner benefits among enterprise clients.

"John and Daja will be tremendous assets to ThinkEco," said Jun Shimada, President and CEO of ThinkEco. "With their leadership, the TE Enterprise Solution will continue to help companies, not just in saving money but in enabling better sustainability decision-making and performance optimization."

"Having recently led energy efficiency projects for a major electronics and office equipment maker, I am extremely enthusiastic about joining ThinkEco," said Schweizer. "I view ThinkEco as the front runner leading the evolution in practical and affordable plug load management and sub-metering. I look forward to helping enterprise clients incorporate this superior and sustainable technology into their operations."

ThinkEco's Enterprise Solution Sales and R&D professionals will partner with Value Added Resellers who populate the enterprise workspace. These collaborations will ultimately allow micro sub-metering of plug loads to manage costs, drive appropriate corporate policies and encourage desired employee behavior.

About ThinkEco, Inc.
Founded in 2008, ThinkEco, Inc., is a New York City-based company developing easy-to-use energy efficiency solutions for homes and businesses. Its flagship product, the modlet, is an intelligent outlet that provides a simple, low-cost and installation-free method for saving money and energy on electronic appliances. The modlet software is a web application that has been developed in a scalable client-server architecture. For more information, visit For the latest updates and news, follow the company on Twitter at @ThinkEco and on Facebook at

SOURCE  ThinkEco, Inc.
CONTACT: Anne Steinberg, or Joann Wardrip,, both of Kitchen Public Relations, +1-212-687-8999
Web Site:


Global warming causing Methane Hydrate Production Technologies to be Tested on Alaska's North Slope

The Dept of Energy has announced a "Test" between themselves, Japan Oil, and ConocoPhillips for "producing methane gas from hydrate deposits on the Alaska North Slope".  This is probably a bit arcane but a) it's a sign of impending peak oil effects, b) continued extraction of fossil fuels which will result in more emissions of previously sequestered carbon, c) involve questionable technologies to scrape stuff off the ocean floor, d) doesn't contribute to moving to properly clean energy technologies

We should start with what is a "methane hydrate"?  Methane clathrate, also called methane hydrate, hydromethane, methane ice, "fire ice" and natural gas hydrate, is a solid clathrate compound (more specifically, a clathrate hydrate) in which a large amount of methane is trapped within a crystal structure of water, forming a solid similar to ice. .. The worldwide amounts of methane bound in gas hydrates is conservatively estimated to total twice the amount of carbon to be found in all known fossil fuels on Earth. (see wikipedia link below)  Basically that means it's methane frozen into ice.  One interesting thing is you can touch a match to this methane ice and set it on fire.

It occurs in shallow waters, both in "deep sedimentary structures" (e.g. underneath the sea floor), and as outcroppings on the sea floor.  They also occur in deep antarctic ice cores, indicating that 800,000 years ago Earth's atmosphere had high methane concentrations.  It's primarily an underground phenomena (according to wikipedia), can occur off-shore in continental shelf areas, as well as on-shore.  The hydrates deposits may conceal deeper methane deposits.

Methane is basically identical to what we call "Natural Gas".  Methane is a very serious greenhouse gas, and is a carbon based hydrocarbon.

In other words, this is a fossil fuel.  Extracting these methane hydrates will do all the same things we're concerned about in other uses of fossil fuels.  It means releasing methane that's currently sequestered underground, releasing the carbon into the ecosphere, and will continue contributions to releases of greenhouse gasses known to influence global warming climate change.

This is related to the effect in Siberia and other arctic tundra areas, where the frozen tundra is melting leading to methane releases.  The "clathrate gun hypothesis" suggests that releases of methane from melting tundra will lead to runaway warming.  I wonder if the purposeful release of methane from the hydrate deposits would also trigger this chathrate gun ??

Methane Hydrate Production Technologies to be Tested on Alaska's North Slope

Washington, DC — The U.S. Department of Energy, the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, and ConocoPhillips will work together to test innovative technologies for producing methane gas from hydrate deposits on the Alaska North Slope.

The collaborative testing will take place under the auspices of a Statement of Intent for Cooperation in Methane Hydrates signed in 2008 and extended in 2011 by DOE and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. The production tests are the next step in both U.S. and Japanese national efforts to evaluate the response of gas hydrate reservoirs to alternative gas hydrate production concepts. The tests will provide critical information to inform potential future extended-duration tests.


The tests will utilize the "Iġnik Sikumi" (Iñupiaq for "fire in the ice") gas hydrate field trial well, a fully instrumented borehole that was installed in the Prudhoe Bay region by ConocoPhillips and the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory earlier this year.


Methane hydrate consists of molecules of natural gas trapped in an open rigid framework of water molecules. It occurs in sediments within and below thick permafrost in Arctic regions, and in the subsurface of most continental waters with a depth of ~1,500 feet or greater. Many experts believe it represents a potentially vast source of global energy, and DOE scientists have studied methane hydrate resource potential and production technologies for more than two decades.


The current test plans call for roughly 100 days of continuous operations from January to March 2012. Tests will include the initial field trial of a technology that involves injecting carbon dioxide (CO2) into methane-hydrate-bearing sandstone formations, resulting in the swapping of CO2 molecules for methane molecules in the solid-water hydrate lattice, the release of methane gas, and the permanent storage of CO2 in the formation. This field experiment will be an extension of earlier successful tests of the technology conducted by ConocoPhillips and their research partners in a laboratory setting.


Following the exchange tests, the team will conduct a 1-month evaluation of an alternative methane-production method called depressurization. This process involves pumping fluids out of the borehole to reduce pressure in the well, which results in dissociation of methane hydrate into methane gas and liquid water. The method was successfully demonstrated during a 1-week test conducted by Japan and Canada in northwestern Canada in 2008.


- End of Techline


For more information, contact:


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Coal Seam Gas gets cool reception in wine country, despite compatibility claims

Coalbed methane is a form of natural gas extracted from coal beds.  When they talk about coal mines exploding due to methane, that's coalbed methane.  In some places the phrase used is "Coal Seam Gas" and is abbreviated as CSG, as is done below.

Apparently some wine-makers in Australia are up in arms about CSG operations near their wineries.  Some politicians in Australia are claiming CSG and wine-making can operate side-by-side, but the wine-makers say no-way.  They explain it this way: “One, we don’t know the impact on the agricultural land and almost everything we have seen so far is not good; second, it’s going to damage the tourism industry which is a lifeblood of wine growing areas worldwide; third, what do we do with the salt water?”

The Wikipedia for CSG explains some of the wine-makers concerns.  A CSG well is a steel pipe going underground into a coal seem, perhaps 100-1500 meters deep.  Methane and "produced water" come to the surface through the pipe.  The "produced water" had been underground, is released along with the methane gas, and often the water contains chemicals like sodium bicarbonate or chloride.  Hence, the wine-makers ask "what do we do with the salt water"?

Apparently normal practice is to put the water in evaporation ponds, use it for irrigation, or pour it into streams.  One hopes they check the salinity before pouring the water onto the land, because saline water would render the land unable to grow crops.  Apparently the evaporation ponds sometimes break, which would tend to damage neighboring lands.

Top Winemakers Refute Griner CSG Claim

Broke, NSW -- 10/31/2011 -- Two of the Hunter Valley’s leading winemakers, Bruce Tyrrell and Brian McGuigan, have strongly refuted comments by the former NSW premier, Nick Greiner, that coal seam gas production and winemaking can operate side by side.

“The two industries cannot co-exist on current information,” Mr Tyrrell said.

“One, we don’t know the impact on the agricultural land and almost everything we have seen so far is not good; second, it’s going to damage the tourism industry which is a lifeblood of wine growing areas worldwide; third, what do we do with the salt water?”

Mr McGuigan has written to a Senate committee stating that “coal seam methane gas fields and viticulture are NOT compatible land uses”.

Their remarks are the latest development in the controversy in the Hunter Valley over whether coal seam gas activity should be allowed in vineyard areas.

Mr McGuigan’s letter to the Standing Committee for Rural Affairs and Transport follows evidence given to its inquiry by Mike Moraza, a general manager with AGL Energy.

Mr Moraza had quoted Mr McGuigan as a reference point for there being no land use conflict. Mr McGuigan’s company manages the Spring Mountain vineyard on behalf of AGL Energy.

Spring Mountain was purchased by AGL Energy from Mr Greiner when AGL found that no farmers in the Broke and Bulga areas of the Hunter Valley would grant them access to their respective properties.

ln Mr Moraza's evidence, he said, “To coin the words that Brian McGuigan used, the vineyard has never looked as good as it has under AGL’s ownership."

In his letter, Mr McGuigan asserts that the current vineyard owned by AGL is not in an operating gas field, that the property merely has some exploration on it and that AGL is spending money on the vineyard to make sure it looks in excellent condition.

Spring Mountain’s previous owner, Mr Greiner, has been quoted in the Australian Financial Review as saying “The evidence from my old vineyard suggests that wine and gas can co-exist.”

Media contact:
David Browne
Wilkinson Group
02 8001 8827 / 0432 550 995

Source: Hunter Valley Protection Alliance