Dec 12
Cryogenic storage offers hope for renewable energy
The world's largest cold energy storage plant is being commissioned at a site near Manchester.

The cryogenic energy facility stores power from renewables or off-peak generation by chilling air into liquid form. When the liquid air warms up it expands and can drive a turbine to make electricity.​

A graphic explaining how the cold storage plant works in three stages: 1) Charge: Offpeak or excess electricity is used to power an air liquefier, which produces liquid air. 2) Store: The liquid air is stored in a tank at low pressure. 3) Discharge: To recover power the liquid air is pumped to high pressure, evaporated and heated. The high pressure gas drives a turbine to generate electricity.

Demand side response, the concept of adjusting usage in response to the available supply of electricity, could work easily alongside other innovations like cryogenic energy storage.​ Data Center applications perhaps?


Dec 12
Google Targets 100 Percent Renewable Energy in 2017


Google announced that in 2017 Google will reach 100% renewable energy for global operations — including both data centers and offices.  Google is one of the first corporations to create large-scale, long-term contracts to buy renewable energy directly; signing their first agreement to purchase all the electricity from a 114-megawatt wind farm in Iowa, in 2010. Today, Google is the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable power, with commitments reaching 2.6 gigawatts (2,600 megawatts) of wind and solar energy. 


Google achieving-100-renewable-energy-purchasing-goal.pdf

Sep 21
Transparent solar panels are the photovoltaics of the future

If you’re searching for the solar panel of the future, why not consider those created by the aptly-named SolarWindow Technologies, which transform regular windows into photovoltaics, capable of producing 50 times greater electrical energy than rooftop panels, when modeled for a 50-story building.

“Just pick up your cell phone, look at the face without any power or image, and you’ll see a pretty good example of what today’s thin film looks like,” John Conklin, CEO of SolarWindow, told Digital Trends. “It’s heavy, it’s too dark to see through, and most thin-film is not flexible. This type of technology isn’t the type to build skyscraper windows.”

He, on the other hand, had a different idea.

solar windows  times more effective john a conklin ceo wndw

This is where SolarWindow comes into play. As the term “regular windows” suggests, users don’t have to replace the existing windows in their home, but need only treat them with a special process developed by the company.

“We apply liquid coatings to glass and plastic surfaces at ambient pressure, and dry these coatings at low temperature to produce transparent films,” Conklin continued. “We repeat these processes, and then collectively these coatings — and thus the glass and plastic surfaces — generate electricity.”

Of these coatings, the most important is the so-called “Active Layer,” through which electricity is generated by the absorption of light, and the transparent conductors, which allow the electricity to be extracted. “[The] coatings are primarily organic, primarily from carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen,” Conklin said. “We are constantly refining each of the layers to improve on the power we’re able to extract from these coatings and enhance their manufacturability.”

In addition to buildings, Conklin notes that some of the possible applications of this tech include the automotive industry, where a sunroof, windscreen or even side view mirrors could be turned into solar panels. There are also aerospace and military use-cases, and even the possibility of a “flexible fabric” being developed.

In all, it’s an exciting area to be working in, with some impressive math on its side. What kind of math? By the company’s estimates, a 50-story building with solar windows could generate around 1.3GWh every twelve months. For those keeping track, that’s enough energy to power around 130 homes for an entire year.

Dormehl, L. (August 31, 2016). 
Transparent solar panels are the photovoltaics of the future. Digital Trends. Retrieved from: http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/solar-windows-50-times-more-effective/#ixzz4Kt9X3zGr 

Sep 20
Loud Sound Just Shut Down a Bank's Data Center for 10 Hours

ING Bank’s main data center in Bucharest, Romania, was severely damaged over the weekend during a fire extinguishing test. In what is a very rare but known phenomenon, it was the loud sound of inert gas being released that destroyed dozens of hard drives. The site is currently offline and the bank relies solely on its backup data center, located within a couple of miles’ proximity.

“The drill went as designed, but we had collateral damage”, ING’s spokeswoman in Romania told me, confirming the inert gas issue. Local clients were unable to use debit cards and to perform online banking operations on Saturday between 1PM and 11PM because of the test. “Our team is investigating the incident,” she said.

The purpose of the drill was to see how the data center's fire suppression system worked. Data centers typically rely on inert gas to protect the equipment in the event of a fire, as the substance does not chemically damage electronics, and the gas only slightly decreases the temperature within the data center.

The gas is stored in cylinders, and is released at high velocity out of nozzles uniformly spread across the data center. According to people familiar with the system, the pressure at ING Bank's data center was higher than expected, and produced a loud sound when rapidly expelled through tiny holes (think about the noise a steam engine releases).

The bank monitored the sound and it was very loud, a source familiar with the system told us. “It was as high as their equipment could monitor, over 130dB”.

Sound means vibration, and this is what damaged the hard drives. The HDD cases started to vibrate, and the vibration was transmitted to the read/write heads, causing them to go off the data tracks.

“The inert gas deployment procedure has severely and surprisingly affected several servers and our storage equipment,” ING said in a press release.

There is still very little known about how sound can cause hard drive failure. One of the first such experiments was made by engineer Brendan Gregg, in 2008, while he was working for Sun's Fishworks team. He recorded a video in which he explains how shouting in a data center can result in hard drives malfunction.


In ING Bank’s case, it was “like putting a storage system next to a [running] jet engine,” a source told me.

Researchers at IBM are also investigating data center sound-related inert gas issues. “[T]he HDD can tolerate less than 1/1,000,000 of an inch offset from the center of the data track—any more than that will halt reads and writes”, experts Brian P. Rawson and Kent C. Green wrote in a paper. “Early disk storage had much greater spacing between data tracks because they held less data, which is a likely reason why this issue was not apparent until recently.”

Siemens also published a white paper a year ago saying that its tests show that “excessive noise can have a negative impact on HDD performance”. Researchers said this negative impact may even begin at levels below 110dB.

“It can now be established with a high degree of certainty that the faults in storage systems as a result of an inert gas extinguishing systems discharge were caused by the impact of high noise levels on the hard disk drives,” according to Siemens.

The Bank said it required 10 hours to restart its operation due to the magnitude and the complexity of the damage. A cold start of the systems in the disaster recovery site was needed. “Moreover, to ensure full integrity of the data, we’ve made an additional copy of our database before restoring the system,” ING’s press release reads.

Over the next few weeks, every single piece of equipment will need to be assessed. ING Bank’s main data center is compromised “for the most part”, a source told us.

Fiscutean, A. (September 11, 2016) . Loud Sound Just Shut Down a Bank's Data Center for 10 Hours . Motherboard.  Retrieved from http://motherboard.vice.com/read/a-loud-sound-just-shut-down-a-banks-data-center-for-10-hours 


Jul 07
Keeping your home safe from lightning strikes


For the third time in two weeks, lightning sparked a fire in Southwest Florida. 

We wanted to know, what can you can do to protect yourself and your home. 

One thing you can do is clear brush away from your home because it doesn't take long for a fire to take off -- like some Lehigh Acres residents learned Sunday when lightning ignited a brush fire near their homes. 

June Duke, homeowner said: "lightning flashed and even the controller in my hand sort of buzzed or tingled."

"I walked into the kitchen and I smelled smoke... and then I saw huge flames," said Duke, who called 911 in a panic.

But what about a direct strike to your house?

Firefighters told us a lightning rod could have prevented a house fire in the Quail West neighborhood on Saturday.

But the homeowners said they were told they probably wouldn't have done that much good, and might have actually caused more harm.

Lightning rods hook up to chords that run underneath the ground and when lightning strikes the rod, the electric current runs through it and away from the home.

Lance Fleming of Lightning Protection Services says that could have helped prevent the Duke's propane chords on their roof from exploding.

"A lot of people we hear say my insurance covers any kind of damage so we won't worry about that but they don't realize the loss of life or the things it can damage or the inconvenience," said Fleming.

We found out lightning rods may not give you all of the protection you need -- because of our sandy soil.

Lightning rods attract lightning strikes to the rods instead of directly hitting the house, and then divert the electricity through a wire, into the ground.

The problem is our sandy soil doesn't conduct energy very well. 

study done by the University of Florida found that 80 percent of the strike still flows through the home's electric system in sandy areas and a major strike can still cause a fire -- plus destroy anything plugged in that has a motor.

The study found adding a surge protector at the meter can greatly reduce the chance of damage or a fire.

We checked and aside from protecting your home, most insurers offer a discount for installing lightning rods. Once a claim is filed providers stress they should be installed.​

Apr 25
2 hurt, 1 with life-threatening injuries following Arc Flash Hazard incident


JACKSONVILLE, Florida -- Investigators from OHSA, JEA, JSO and more are working to find the cause of an explosion that severely burned two men near the 550 Water Street building downtown on Friday.

JEA spokewoman Gerri Boyce said the two men were rushed to the hospital just after 3 p.m. with severe burns caused by an arc flash in the electrical equipment that powers the office building, primarily occupied by the CSX Corp. The building is owned by Graham & Company Real Estate. One man worked for JEA; the other for Graham.

Boyce said the men were investigating a power issue when the incident occurred in a switch gear.

Action News crews were there when investigators surrounded the building and evacuated everyone inside.

We asked William Burkhardt, a 35-year veteran of the construction industry, who is an instructor with the North East Florida Safety Council, for insight into the accident.

Burkhardt said two lines likely became crossed inside the unit, and the flash occurred when the men opened the door.

"If something was broken inside, and if something touching it, and you open the door and it falls apart, you're going to get an arc flash," he said.

Burkhardt said despite required training by OSHA, arc flashes send at least one electrician to the hospital every day in the United States. He said they are impossible to predict, and the heat can exceed 30,000 degrees, which is three times hotter than the sun. He also said figuring out what caused them is difficult.

On Wednesday, 550 Water Street was one of multiple buildings that lost power during another JEA incident in Riverside. Boyce said crews are working to determine if the two incidents are related.

"Anything at this point would be purely speculation, but we have two investigations going on right now into the safety part of this and the actual electrical incident," she said.

Burkhardt said safety inspectors won't stop until they find out.

"Everybody's going to be investigating this to find out what happened, and why it happened, so they can prevent it from happening again," he said.

Both victims were transported to UF Health, where one man's injuries are now listed as serious. The other was flown to the Shands Gainesville burn unit with life-threatening injuries.

Jan 09
Welcome to my blog!

This is where I'll be sharing my thoughts on topics that matter to me. Who knows... I might even share pictures, videos and links to other interesting stuff.

If I catch your interest, let me hear from you.