17 May 2015

Tesla’s Home Battery Could Change the Energy Market Forever

Guest post by Maria Ramos

You probably have never heard of Michael Stanley Whittingham but certainly you have heard of Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur who, besides creating plans for colonizing Mars and providing accessible satellite internet virtually anywhere in the world, is doing his level best to feed a renewable energy revolution on Earth.

Back in the 1970’s, while working for Exxon, Dr. Whittingham was the principal proponent for a new type of battery technology: Lithium-ion. As of April 8th 2015, Elon Musk’s company Tesla announced their plans to utilize Li-ion technology for large-scale, distributed electricity storage one house and business at a time.

Tesla's Powerwall

Energy Storage is Critical to the Green Revolution?

The ability to efficiently store excess energy from intermittent renewable sources such as wind or solar has been a challenge for power producers for decades. Hydroelectric power has a natural, on-demand storage mechanism built-in but other energy sources only have the reserve of unconsumed fuel itself.

Power utility companies spend enormous resources managing power loads between high and low demand cycles. Solar, which only produces during daylight hours and wind, which cannot be coerced to blow only during peak demand periods, complicate their balancing act. Without an efficient means to store excess power, much of it goes to waste.

This situation explains why utility companies would much rather subsidize home-based storage systems in order to reduce complexity and avoid building capital-intensive peak generation capacity—according to Ohiogascompanies.com, the infrastructure needed to distribute energy is the most difficult expense for utilities to mitigate, and as Renewableenergyworld.com points out, the industry has been unable to develop a cost-effective storage solution thus far.

Enter Elon Musk, Tesla and SolarCity

You could think of electric power storage as Tesla’s raison d’etre. Tesla is now re-purposing their technology and expertise derived from their all-electric cars to manufacture economically feasible on-site electricity storage. Tesla’s upcoming $5 billion gigafactory in Nevada will be completely dedicated to lowering Li-ion battery production costs and improving battery storage efficiency.

Their new Powerwall battery storage system, in 7 kilowatt-hour and 10 kilowatt-hour versions, is already in pre-production out of their Fremont plant in California. Tesla is teaming up with another Elon Musk company, SolarCity, to provide complete solutions to homeowners for electricity backup, storage, and grid-sharing. Currently, hundreds of U.S. households are already happily utilizing Tesla electricity storage systems.

The complete systems for which SolarCity is taking orders now include the power pack, inverters, and grid-sharing services. Complete system cost is estimated at $500 per kilowatt-hour.

Overcoming Battery Storage Drawbacks

Besides high initial cost, batteries have some disadvantages, which both Tesla and SolarCity are mitigating:

  • Batteries being charged via the utility grid require an AC to DC inverter.
  • To use a battery pack’s DC power for AC appliances, a DC to AC inverter is needed.
  • Converting between AC and DC loses up to 30 percent of the energy in transfer.
  • Properly maintained Li-ion batteries require replacement every several years.

The Future of Green Energy

Despite isolated fears about “grid disruption” when large numbers of small-scale solar and wind power installations come online, the number of installations continues growing. Increasingly efficient, low-cost solar panels and the advent of innovative battery storage solutions, such as Tesla’s, are driving the trend.

SolarCity’s online micro-grid, battery and inverter control plus revenue-sharing plans are creating new business models that merge customer and utility energy assets. All of this means less reliance on fossil fuels and more efficient use of all fuels as the highs and lows of energy demand gradually smooth out.

Future Improvements 

Fortunately, visionaries such as Elon Musk and the hard work and innovations of scientists like M. S. Whittingham mean more energy storage advances are yet to come. These will benefit everyone from homeowners to utility companies and Mother Earth.

About the author:

Maria is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Communication. She blogs about environmentally friendly tips, technological advancements, and healthy active lifestyles. You can follow her in Twitter @MariaRamos1889

16 May 2015

Casio G-Shock GA - 100MC - 1 AER review

I was looking for a G-Shock with an analogue dial and came across this model on Lazada. What makes this watch unique from other G-Shocks is the military stripped nylon webbing. There are a few other models in the GA100MC Military Cloth series with unique colour combinations but I prefer the understated colours of the GA - 100MC - 1AER.

In keeping with the military theme, the watch features reverse LCD display on a black face. It looks nice but makes it a bit hard to read in bad light and 12/24 hour formats.

Like other G-Shocks, the watch is shock resistant and water resistant to 200m. Other unique features include magnetic resistance, 48-city World Time, 1/1000th sec. stopwatch with speed indicator (not sure whether I would ever require that type of accuracy) and auto LED lights.

Thought it would be heavy but it is not too bad at 75gms. I was also a bit worried that the watch would look too big on my wrist (dimensions of the watch: 55 × 51.2 × 16.9 mm) but it doesn't look too bad. I like the big oversized buttons which is easier to use as compared to the tiny ones on my old Casio G-Shock DW-5600EG-9.

I really like this watch and it has become my daily wear - I even wear it to office.

29 Apr 2015

The LG G4 - Leather clad beauty

With the attention has focused on the Apple iPhone 6 and the Samsung S6, a lot of people did not notice the launch of the LG G4. The phone is powered by a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 808 Processor with X10 LTE and comes with 3GB RAM and unlike the iPhone 6 and Samsung S6, the storage can be expanded up to 2TB via Micro-SD card. Moreover, the 3,000mAh battery is removable. Comes with optional wireless charging with the Quick Circle™ Case.

The phone has a 5.5" Size IPS quantum display and comes with 16MP rear camera with f/1.8 aperture and a 8MP front camera, ideal for taking selfies.

One interesting feature of the phone is the Gesture Shot and Gesture View features which allows you to take pictures by using certain gestures.

The phone comes with a choice of various premium back cover, namely, metallic gray, ceramic white, gold, and genuine leather (in brown, black and red).

20 Apr 2015

New Sony Xperia Z4

Sony has released information about it's latest mobile phone, the Xperia Z4 on their Japanese website.

The Xperia Z4 has a 5.2-inch screen (similar to the Z3) and is 6.9mm thick. It is powered by a eight-core, 64-bit Snapdragon 810 processor. It also has a massive 3GB of RAM and runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop OS. Unique features includes the 20.7MP front and rear cameras, so be prepared for some ultra detailed selfies.

Like it's predecessors, the Xperia Z4 is also water and dust resistant. Something that both the iPhone 6 and the Samsung S6 don't have.

No news yet on prices and launch date. As far as I know, the Z3 sales were not that good despite all the positive reviews. I guess it has something to do with the price and the fact that Sony is no where near Apple in terms of brand desirability.

I really like the Xperia Z3 compact. However, no news on a compact version of the Z4 yet.

2 Mar 2015

Samsung Galaxy S6: Is this the Samsung phone we have been waiting for

When it comes to mobile phones, I have been a loyal Samsung fan. I was converted after I bought a Samsung Galaxy S2 several years back. It was an impressive mobile phone and I am still using it. Since then, I have owned the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Note 1. However, my loyalty has kind of slowly faded. Even my wife who used to be a loyal Samung fan has moved on to Lenovo. Samsung keeps on bringing out unimpressive mobile phone models, one after the one,  which are not attractive nor innovative and yet, not cheap either. I can understand why hundreds (if not thousands) of people can wait in queue whenever a new Apple iPhone comes out.

I was seriously tempted to jump ship and get myself a new iPhone after trying out my sister's iPhone 6. However, the ridiculous price of the phone kept me check. The phone I was seriously considering was the Sony Xperia Z3. Two factors convinced me - the picture quality and the fact that it is waterproof.

A few days back I learnt that Samsung was launching their new phone which has been covered by a few tech blogs. There was none of the anticipation or excitement that accompanies an iPhone launch. However, Samsung may have finally done something right.

They unveiled the Galaxy S6 at MWC 2015 at Barcelona. Learnt that there are infact two models - the Galaxy 6 and the Galaxy 6 edge.

I guess Samsung has finally listed and there is no trace of plastic (at least not on the surface) on the phones. They are aluminium and Gorilla glass wrapped. The only difference between the two models is that the S6 Edge's screen extens along the edges on both sides which can be turned into informations strips similar to last year’s Galaxy Note Edge. The phones have 5.1 inch, 2560x1440 displays and is powered by Samsung Exynos processor (2.5GHz quad + 2.1GHz quad) with 3GB of RAM. The phone runs on the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop OS.

It has a 16-megapixel camera with the lens protuding from the back which somewhat spoils the design but I guess it is one of the technical issues you face when you want to place a high pixel camera in a thin phone (just 6.8mm thick). It also has a 5MP front camera with real-time high definition recording.

On the negative side, some features have been lost. This includes lack of a MicroSD card slot and the 2550mAh batteries which can't be replaced.

Not sure I am convinced though. Have to try it out hands on and look at the prices. Then I can finally decide.

View their launch here.


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