A TweetStory Of My SXSW Talk on Zero Waste

It’s a shame to let the twitter stream go to waste. So when looking for ways to recap my experience delivering a talk on Zero Waste at SXSW, the twittstream seemed like the perfect way to tell the story.

It all starts with my last two tweets before getting started:

Twitter_avatar_normal robotchampion Prepped and ready for 1230 #zerowaste talk, props, surprise guests, and even activism!

Twitter_avatar_normalrobotchampion Talk is just moments away, use the #zerowaste hashtag

As we get started eight folks chime in with GoWalla and Foursquare check-ins and general announcements about it beginning:

Default_profile_4_normal steveblackmon #zerowaste — at Zero Waste: The Future of Green http://gowal.la/s/4rK2

Me_normal JessiO At the #zerowaste session in 8A. (@ Austin Convention Center w/ @ramon_deleon @benedictwong @leahjones) http://4sq.com/8RQqOx

Yannx_-_small_normal YannR next #zerowaste … the future of green @ sxsw

4419588603_797328914c_b_normal sustaining Settling in at the #zerowaste session; looks like a diverse crowd and a lot of Austinites!

Then, I launch into my intro attempting to explain #zerowaste, but here is what they crowd hears/tweets:

Greenited_normal GREENITED On average Americans create 6 pounds of trash per day per person. #zerowaste #sxsw

Ctg_jelly_normal createthegood At #zerowaste, @robotchampion is talking about companies like @WholeFoods that are reducing the amt of trash they send to landfill. Saves $.

Lbd2008_012_normal accooper1 Change the size of the compost (largest) recycle & landfill (smallest) bins to help change behavior #zerowaste #sxsw

Ctg_jelly_normal createthegood #zerowaste is diverting from landfills… composting, recycling… – @robotchampion #SXSW

Ok, so either I was extremely captivating and no one cared to tweet, or I talked way too fast and folks only had time to tweet major snippets?

Ctg_jelly_normal createthegood Next speaker is Beth Ferguson from Austin… Her design thesis was on solar charging stations for electric vehicles & bikes. #zerowaste

Agreenerlife_normal agreenerlifeorg At the #zerowaste panel being impressed with people’s ingenuity.

Newpic_normal Blocks8 Look for the solar recharge stations that look like 1950’s gas pumps around Austin #sxsw #zerowaste

Ctg_jelly_normal createthegood One audience member said they saw it last night and there was a line. People are digging it. #zerowaste // Now I wanna go snap a pic!

Picture_20_normal LisaRedShoesPR did not know about the retro-fitted 50s style gas pumps as solar charging stations for bikes, laptops around… #sxsw #zerowaste

4419588603_797328914c_b_normal sustaining Beth Ferguson’s design for a solar electric charging station incorporates 1950s gas pumps to make energy consumption visible. #zerowaste

Kelly_new_avatar_normal craftyb RT @createthegood: Henry Ford’s wife drove the first electric vehicle. #zerowaste #whoknew

I chime in with an important fact that a few tweet about:

Avatar_122615_normal changeorder The greatest new energy source is energy reduction. #zerowaste #sxsw

Then our next speaker, Jason Aramburu, starts off with a zinger:

Croppercapture_3__normal brianfit Clean coal? Oxymoron! #zerowaste

Bbf_normal brookebf Rechar doing project in Houston ship channel w waste wood fr hurricane ike gen pwr & fertilizer reduce landfill #zerowaste #sxswi #housxsw

After Jason’s talk I go off on compost, which seemed to set off a flurry of tweets:

Ctg_jelly_normal createthegood A lot of people in the room raise their hand saying they compost. Me, I’m learning. #zerowaste #SXSW

E_solo_1_normal ericavandenberg “Farmers call compost black gold” #zerowaste #sxswi

3604605400_69a847a333_normal KuraFire Compost is the new black gold. #zerowaste

Amy begins her part:

Ctg_jelly_normal createthegood Next up, @sengseng (aka “Steve’s woman”) She’s talking about the girlfriend’s perspective living with someone who lives #zerowaste lifestyle

Noname_6__normal kirbstr #zerowaste victim or guinea pig 🙂

Ctg_jelly_normal createthegood . @sengseng‘s first reaction was that #zerowaste is impossible in today’s society #SXSW

Lbd2008_012_normal accooper1 Waste is just a bad habit not a lifestyle #zerowaste #sxsw

Ctg_jelly_normal createthegood Even just bringing a water bottle or your own cup helps reduce the paper generated. – @sengseng #zerowaste #SXSW

Ctg_jelly_normal createthegood Changing food habits was one of the biggest challenges. @robotchampion & @sengseng shop at farmers markets mainly #zerowaste #SXSW

Picture_20_normal LisaRedShoesPR Re-think what constitutes a meal … #sxsw #zerowaste eat things from farmer’s markets.

Amy hits the tweet bingo with the most folks re-tweeting her lines/quoting her. Then a questioneer brings up the crucial question with perfect timing and saving me from the awkward transition to it. What are the online resources for zero waste, food, etc.?

Picture_20_normal LisaRedShoesPR take note of the #slowfood movement. #sxsw #zerowaste

Ctg_jelly_normal createthegood To find your local farmers markets or locally sourced food, one resource is http://www.localharvest.org/ #zerowaste #SXSW

Picture_20_normal LisaRedShoesPR check out eatwellguide.org for farmer’s guide market #sxsw #zerowaste

Finally, the session winds down with announcements and lots of folks with new ideas:

Noname_6__normal kirbstr #zerowaste comment on the waste of the swag bags, but they are a revenue source for smaller biz but #sxsw is cutting down on paper wastes

Img_4890-edit-2-edit_normal MelissaSavcic Great talk about #zerowaste at #sxsw There needs to be more ‘green’ lifestyle conferences!

3604605400_69a847a333_normal KuraFire IFixit.com is aiming to be a Wikipedia for fixing your own hardware (like broken iPhone screens). #zerowaste

3604605400_69a847a333_normal KuraFire “Reduce first, Reuse second, Recycle third. Now a fourth one: Rethink.” #Zerowaste

Pirate_normal floridagirlindc My fave from #zerowaste panel at #SXSW: @sengseng‘s “Look at the faces of people in supermakret vs people at farmers market. Who’s happier?”

Img_0860_normal the007way #zerowaste www.soldesignlab.com Been considering an elec scooter but I have nowhere to charge it at present. Just got rid of car.

The Stats

  • 6 rave reviews and 2 critiques (here, here, I followed up personally with each critique)
  • During the 60 minute session:
  • — there were 51 ReTweets
  • — 204 Tweets using the hashtag #zerowaste
  • — which is 3.4 tweets/minute or about a tweet every 18 seconds
  • 1 Live Streamer
  • 3 Live Note Takers (by YannR, cwcinc, and benrigby)

The Ending, My Favorite Tweet

Photo_071309_001_normal AeroSuch Lots of sandals & composters at #Zerowaste. Great insights into solar recharge, bio charcoal, and savingmoney/calories/trash #habits #sxsw

Why Bloom is a Game Changer

Wow!

What an exciting day in energy. Today Bloom Energy changed the game with their Bloom Server, here is why.

We all know the story that the vast majority of our energy comes from old (and dirty) power plants that use coal and nuclear energy sources. Well the hidden truth behind these “energy sources” is that all they do is heat water to create steam and move turbines. They make steam!

How ridiculous is that. We can send a robot to Mars but to power my iPhone I need some boiling water?

This ridiculous market paradigm is what Bloom hopes to exploit (and make billions in the process). They ignore the source argument over replacing coal and nuclear with wind, solar, or heat. Instead focusing on the energy process itself and applying advanced technology to wring some efficiency out of it.

K.R. Sridhar, CEO of Bloom, PhD, and former Director of Space Technologies at UofA, did just that. He found that a combination of fuel cells and natural gas can get 2x as much power as the steam process can (using same inputs). In his own words, they did it through old fashioned innovation:

“I call it R&D on steroids,” K.R. Sridhar said at the start-up’s offices. “We created an R&D platform where you continuously improve, validate and test. Learn why it broke and move on.”

That RD process has turned out one of the most promising energy technologies to date (imagine needing half as much coal). A fuel cell made out of sand and coated in a cheap metal “oxide” (they are keeping the recipe a secret). Each cell is super thin and just a few inches wide/long and capable of turning natural gas into electricity.

That is the fuel cell side to all this, although it doesn’t sound at all like traditional fuel cells.

The kicker is that this is not future technology. These fuel cells are already in place at many large business sites. Google is reported to be the first to have installed one while eBay, who hosted the press event, said to have five Bloom Servers providing %15 of their energy. A server is about 4,000 cells jammed into a black box that looks like an IT server.

That is just the beginning. This technology is so promising that everybody is joining the party. The press event was attended by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Colin Powell, Dianne Feinstein, and Michael Bloomberg (“make no mistake, when we look at Bloom, we are looking at the future of business, economy, and America”).

Finally, the VP and CEO’s of FedEx, Walmart, Staples, Google, Coca Cola, Bank of America, Cox, and eBay were on hand to explain why they love Bloom.

A star studded public relations event or the future of energy technology?

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CNet Live Blog Of Bloom Energy Press Event

Engadget Live Blog of Bloom Energy Press Event

The Sustainable Executive Order – 13514

The Department of Energy (DOE/FEMP) is holding a monthly online seminar focusing on sustainability. The sessions provide support for legions of federal workers that are leading the nation into our new green economy.

The first session (of six) focuses on Executive Order 13514, commonly called the sustainable order. The following training sessions are as follows:

  • Mar 4 – Energy 101
  • Apr 1 – Water Efficiency Planning and Implementation
  • May 6 – Federal Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Reporting
  • Jun 3 – Advanced Metering Requirements and Best Practices
  • Jul 1 – Operations, Maintenance, and Commissioning

Each session is available for free through online video streaming.

I attended the first one (virtually) and here are my notes. Also, I am keeping out the presenters emails but if you have questions and would like their contacts, please let me know.

—-

“As the largest consumer of energy in the US economy the Federal government can and should lead by example when it comes to creating innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, conserve water, reduce waste, and use environmentally-responsible products and technologies.”

The thinking behind the Order is to:

  • have the federal government “lead by example”
  • “take pride in agency accomplishments” (highlight work already being done)
  • encourage agencies to think “integrated planning”
  • push/pull/force agencies to reach across “stovepipes”

The Federal Government:

  • Occupies nearly 500,000 buildings
  • Operates more than 500,000 vehicles
  • Employs more than 1.8 million civilians
  • Purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods and services

Benefits to the Nation:

  • Energy savings – Avoided Costs – Jobs – Innovations – Improvements to Local Infrastructure

Policy:

  • Establish an integrated agency strategy for sustainability, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions within the federal government in order to lead by example and achieve a clean energy economy.
    • “really talking about practical application”
    • “requires strategic perspective bringing together the right components”
    • “planning is crucial”

Goals:

  • GHG reduction targets, energy efficiency, water use efficiency and mgmt, pollution prevention, waste elimination
  • Regional and local integrated planning
  • High performance sustainable Federal buildings
  • Sustainable acquisition
  • Electronics stewardship
  • Environmental mgmt systems

Scopes in Greenhouse Gasses, asking for an absolute percentage reduction target for FY 2020, relative to FY 2008. Due:

  • Scope 1-2 – jan 4, 2010
  • Scope 3 – jun 2, 2010

By FY 2015 achieve a %50 or higher solid waste diversion and construction/demolition diversion

This represents “nothing less than a transformational shift in how federal governments operate”

Additional Work

  • DOE to develop greenhouse gas accounting and reporting recommendations by April/Oct
  • DOT to site sustainable locations for federal facilities
  • GSA to develop local transportation logistics
  • DOE to write federal fleet mgmt guidance
  • GSA to pass along vendor and contractor emissions guidnace
  • EPA to write stormwater guidance for federal facilities

Full copy of the briefing: Executive Order 13514 Training

Next Generation Energy

I recently attended a fascinating seminar on emerging technology in energy. Here are some of my notes and thoughts on the next generation of energy:

Energy Harvesting

My favorite new term. It refers to using existing energy sources (solar, wind, geothermal, thermo) and turning them into electricity to feed the grid. Pretty much covers all the new energy sources. Excludes coal, nuclear, etc.

Smart Grid

Apparently, its just a dream.

Obama is pushing it and so is Energy Secretary, Steven Chu. All reasonable folk expect this is to be the foundation of our energy future. Without a modern grid we have no hope of utilizing the latest innovations. It would be like giving jet fuel to a horse drawn carriage.

Future, hah!, says the wizened gentleman behind me. He begins to explain his reaction after telling me he left the business and is only attending this seminar for nostalgia purposes. Suspect. He relates that the grid is already smart on a macro level. Utilities know how to share power, monitor, and get it to needed locations. What we are talking about is the micro level and involves pushing that technology to every city, home, and building. An expensive feat that will probably never result from government or utility spending.

More to be explained on that in following section.

What is a big deal then? Energy storage on the grid. If we are over-producing solar power in hot deserts and wind power at night, where will at all go. Our current infrastructure does not have an ability to use/transport/store this energy supply. If we can figure out a way to get the energy to high population areas then our grid will be smart.

Smart Metering

This is where the real change is happening. Power outlets with remote controls. Home appliances with timers. Motion sensors. Sleep modes for computers.

All of these involve the new energy monitoring lifestyle. They give us an opportunity to take control of our energy use.  A lot of us want more and this where smart metering comes into play. Hook up all those devices to a software package and you get data heaven. Charts, graphs, recommendations. This seems to be where the juice is (pardon the pun).

Google is offering a software package, called Power Meter, and partnering with Energy, Inc. Their product, the TED5000, has been flying off the shelves for over a year now. It appears that this version of the smart grid, one that is decentralized and at the individual level will be driving the market for years to come.

PV – Photo Voltaic

The process of converting solar energy into electricity. We all know about this and see it on many roofs. For many years the market has been stuck growing at a snails pace. New investments were needed to make this energy type economical. Now we are starting to see that and many seem to be surprised that the former ceiling of 20% (solar energy to electrical energy conversion) is being broken. Wikipedia tells us (with sourcing) that:

Photovoltaic production has been doubling every 2 years, increasing by an average of 48 percent each year since 2002, making it the world’s fastest-growing energy technology. At the end of 2008, the cumulative global PV installations reached 15,200 megawatts.

Second Generation PV

As the investments ramp up the technological innovation is booming. Folks with pent up projects are finally getting dollars (or more likely Yuan) to operationalize their theories. A big group of these innovations are centered around ultra-thin, low cost solar arrays. Instead of the bulky flat panels we will get complex micro solar panels with interesting features like: solar tracking (panels follow the sun), economies of scale (driving down cost), and mirrors (increasing efficiency through reflecting). Our presenter mentioned that these second generation panels have the capability to drive down costs to match that of nuclear and coal power.

Third Generation PV

This one feels more like a laboratory study than a real consumer product. Still their are companies releasing this on the market and our presenter even said that it is in calculators now. This grouping of PV focuses on the materials used to create solar panels. Searching for organic, nano, and molecular replacements for the raw materials (silicon, cadmium, lithium) that we use now. Definitely a major need since many of the raw materials used for solar panels are rare and sometimes for rogue states.

20% Problem

Touched on this a bit before. It boils down to a maximum reached by first generation solar panels. For many years their maximum solar to electrical conversion was 20%, with 80% lost/wasted. In comparison to coal and nuclear, which are 60-70%, this makes solar 3x as expensive and require 3x as many panels/turbines/etc.

The 2/3rd generation technologies mentioned above easily breach the 20% ceiling. One already at 35% through stacking panels, utilizing off band (UV) rays, and mirrors. I expect it wont be long until that number is doubled.

NIMBY

Not in my backyard. This is representing a real problem. In the coming years we will ‘plant’ thousands of solar panels and wind turbines. Few are happy to have them muddy up their roof or beautiful view.

Even worse this backlash is fostering more support for nuclear power plants. They don’t have to go in your backyard!

I just wish somebody would think long term on this. Nuclear Waste. Nuclear Countries. Nuclear Weapon. Not sure we need more nuclear in our lives, especially if the alternative is just a solar panel.

ARPA-E

Maybe you have heard of DARPA, an uber-advanced military research group that created the internet, builds robots, and many other amazing innovations. the Department of Energy has created ARPA-E which stands for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. A place to conceptualize and test the advanced energy projects of the future.

Wireless Sensors

Wireless sensors presents a massive new industry of tiny sensors that require little energy. They serve a simple function which is to turn on, send data, and shut down. They only turn on when activated and gather a specific amount of data to transmit. After transmission they shut back down.

This allows them to be placed nearly anywhere and even form a mesh network. Activate one sensor that passes data and/or activation signal to the next one. In a few minutes you can have data from thousands of sensors. My brother wrote a dissertation on this using planes as an example. Place a sensor on all critical plane equipment. When the plane lands activate the sensors and get a status report on the plane.

Wireless Electricity

Wireless charging is coming. At the recent CES it was the rage. Consumer products are on the market. An MIT startup, Witricity, has several patents and deals with government, industry, and consumables. Hooray for the day when we are free from our cable jungles.

Graphene

A new material created in the lab with amazingly sophisticated microscopes that can be manipulated into a ridiculous array of uses. The presenter showed it as rope, tires, and even circuits. He passed around prints, stickers, rope, and cardboard made out of graphene. It appears to be the next gore-tex, or material than can be turned into anything. Cheap and moldable. It will be fun to see how this material is used.