It may rank closer to the "inconvenience" end on the post-disaster scale of challenges, but a lack of power for mobile devices certainly didn't help matters in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy last year. Innovative devices like the BioLite camp stove made appearances on the streets of New York as residents scoured darkened neighborhoods for a chance to plug in.
This summer I watched with amazement as Matthew Inman (creator of the hilarious web comic The Oatmeal) raised awareness about Nikola Tesla, one of my heroes. In fact, in film school I wrote a little spec script for Tesla -- a man who saw his inventions fully formed in his head, working as visions in his mind, not unlike how Mozart would create music in his mind before writing it down. He even had a ready-made nemesis in Thomas Edison, a guy typically revered in US history.
Tesla was a true genius, and now there's a Kickstarter project to fund a film called Electricity about the man and set the record straight about his triumphs and struggles.
For you lucky TUAW readers, you can enter to win a Tesla solar iPhone charger case, normally available at the $95 pledge level. Of course, I encourage you to contribute to the project as well. Anyone using alternating current today owes Tesla a debt of gratitude for this gift, among many, which he left to humanity.
Enter to win a Tesla iPhone charger and consider backing the documentary about Nikola Tesla originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Fri, 31 Aug 2012 14:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
The Outdoor Retailer show wrapped up on Sunday in Salt Lake City, Utah, and there were a surprising number of accessories and apps introduced at the annual trade show of interest to TUAW readers. Goal Zero, a company that specializes in portable solar chargers, introduced two new solar recharging kits that are designed to keep your Apple and other devices going when there's no power outlet nearby.
The Sherpa 50 (at top) packs enough power to keep your iPad going for up to 15 hours, and can be charged by the sun in 5 to 10 hours with the Nomad 13 solar panel. The Sherpa 50 can also add up to 3 hours of life to your laptop.
A much more portable solution to keep your iPhone or iPod touch powered up to 8 hours longer is the Switch 8 (below). Slightly smaller than a roll of quarters and weighing just 4 ounces, the Switch 8 can be fully charged up by the sun in 6 to 12 hours by the Nomad 3.5 solar panel.
Pricing for the Goal Zero kits (including the solar chargers and accompanying solar panels) is US$399.99 for the Sherpa 50 and $199.99 for the Switch 8. The kits should prove to be a valuable tool for outdoors enthusiasts and emergency preparation.
Looking for an exciting geek adventure this summer? You may want to follow in the footsteps of GigaOM's Katie Fehrenbacher, who recently took a one-day road trip to visit the sites of some of the world's largest data centers. These facilities, all of which are located in a small area of North Carolina, include Apple's new Maiden data center as well as facilities belonging to Google and Facebook.
Fehrenbacher started her trip in Maiden, NC, which she refers to as a "sleepy, and economically depressed, outpost." The town of 3,000 won't see a large number of permanent jobs from the work, since data centers are usually quite lean in terms of staff. Fehrenbacher did manage to wrangle up a lunch of "black-eyed peas, fried okra, and baked beans" at one of the few open businesses in town, Scottie's Bar-B-Que (sounds like Katie's a vegetarian).
The Maiden data center is getting a 20-megawatt solar farm and 4.8 megawatts worth of biogas-fueled fuel cells to provide clean electricity at the facility; according to Fehrenbacher, the only sign of the solar farm at this time is a grid of hundreds of poles upon which the photovoltaic arrays will sit, and signs for Holder Construction (which is building the farm) and the Project Dolphin Solar Farm (the data center was known as Project Dolphin).
You won't get to see much on your driving vacation of the North Carolina data centers. All of the locations are hidden behind massive fences and are well-guarded. But at least you can stop in at Scottie's and get some barbecue... If you're too busy to hop in the car, at least take a look at a 2012 satellite image of the plant on Google Maps.
Road trip! Visiting Apple's North Carolina data center originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Mon, 09 Jul 2012 16:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
As noticed by AppleInsider, the North Carolina Utilities Commission approved Apple's application to build a 20-megawatt solar farm on land adjacent to its Maiden, North Carolina data center. The proposal was filed on February 15 and publicly announced at the end of March. It received no complaints and was approved by the Commission on May 14.
This approval gives Apple the green light to continue work on the solar farm, which will provide a portion of the power required by its data center. The solar array is expected to be completed by November and will start providing power late in December. Apple has said it will be the largest user-owned solar array in the United States.
Apple's data center has been the target of several Greenpeace demonstrations around the world. The environmental activist group criticizes Apple for its reliance on coal and says the company could improve its usage of clean power.
Apple receives regulatory approval for solar farm in North Carolina originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Fri, 18 May 2012 10:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Logitech has been hitting the news a lot lately, first with their Ultrathin Keyboard Cover (US$100, and -- ahem -- we're still waiting for a review unit) and now with the Solar Keyboard Folio ($130, available for pre-order).
The new case is of the familiar folio style, flipping one way for typing and another for viewing media. It also features the popular "magnets in the cover" trick to turn your iPad 2 or third-generation iPad on and off with a flick.
Logitech's marketing materials say that the Solar Keyboard Folio's Bluetooth keyboard will last for two years of typing two hours per day once fully charged, and it appears that sunlight or lamp light will continue to trickle charge the battery so it's topped off.
We're hoping to get one for review in the near future, so stay tuned.
Logitech intros new Solar Keyboard Folio for iPad originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Thu, 03 May 2012 17:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Environmental reports can be all over the place these days -- at times, it seems like these reports tend to be more about politics than the environment. But while Apple has always said it's leading the charge on being environmentally friendly, Greenpeace apparently isn't so sure. The group has called out Apple in a recent report for not using environmentally friendly sources to power Apple's North Carolina data center.
Google, Yahoo, and Facebook all got good marks from Greenpeace's report, because their buildings are in areas that use "clean" power like wind and solar power. But Apple's center uses mostly coal and nuclear electricity, which Greenpeace looks negatively on.
Apple does deserve some credit. It leads the industry in using green power, even if this specific plant, according to this report, isn't doing what Greenpeace wants. Apple also got bad marks for transparency. The company says it uses clean power, but apparently it doesn't always share the specific evidence that Greenpeace wants.
At any rate, there's probably fair points on both sides here. Apple does a lot to use "green" energy in all of its work, and of course, as Greenpeace suggests, there's always more that can be done. The North Carolina data center, as you know if you've ever used iCloud or Siri, is nice to have. But it would be even nicer if it was run on power that did not as negatively affect the environment.
Greenpeace: Apple falling short of sourcing clean power originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Tue, 17 Apr 2012 11:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
James Hamilton is a former datacenter architect for Microsoft and the current datacenter guy for Amazon. In a recent blog post, he examines solar-powered data centers which he says are "really somewhere between a bad idea and pure marketing, where the environmental impact is purely optical." As you can guess from that statement, he isn't too fond of Apple's solar farm setup in Maiden, North Carolina.
Hamilton, on the one hand, applauds Apple for the solar-power installment at its North Carolina datacenter. He notes that the solar farm is the largest commercial deployment in the US at 20 megawatts, and, because of its size, has a "far better chance to work economically than other smaller installments."
Though he commends Apple for its efforts, he also questions whether it's a wise move. Despite its size, Hamilton says the solar farm will provide photo voltaic power for only 4% of Apple's total estimated data center consumption. Hamilton notes that Apple cleared 171 acres of land in order to build its solar farm and wonders if this 171-acre parcel of woodlands is worth such a small portion of Apple's power needs?
Amazon data center guru questions logic of Apple's solar farm originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Fri, 23 Mar 2012 11:11:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Apple has updated its Apple and the Environment web page with information about the huge new data center in Maiden, North Carolina. This US$1 billion, 500,000 square foot facility is the home of Siri and part of the backbone of iCloud. Not only has the facility already earned a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification, but the company has plans to power the facility primarily with renewable energy.
According to Apple, the LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council is unique -- "We know of no other data center of comparable size that has achieved this level of LEED certification." As for the renewable energy plans, Apple notes that they have "major projects under way to achieve this."
Those projects include building the largest end user-owned solar array and non-utility fuel cell installation in the U.S. Last October, Apple received the OK from Catawba County officials to reshape 171 acres of land adjacent to the data center in preparation for installation of the photovoltaic solar array.
The Maiden data center won't be the first Apple facility to use renewable energy: The Apple Facility Report for 2011 notes that company sites in Elk Grove, California, Cork, Ireland, and Austin, Texas use 100 percent renewable energy resources. Apple also added biogas-powered fuel cells at the Cupertino campus in late 2010 to reduce carbon emissions.
Apple touts solar array at North Carolina Data Center originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Mon, 20 Feb 2012 16:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Apple is reportedly building a solar farm to provide energy for its North Carolina data center. An erosion permit granted by Catawba County, North Carolina gives Apple permission to transform 171 acres of vacant land across from the data center into a solar farm. The area will be resloped and will inlcude multiple gravel roads that provide access to the solar panels. It's the first step in a larger plan called Project Dolphin Solar Farm A Expanded. Project Dolphin is the codename given to the consturction project behind Apple's billion dollar data center.
The constucton is in the early stages of planning and very little in known about the farm. Scott Millar, president of the Catawba County Economic Development Corp. and the man who helped bring Apple to Maiden, North Carolina, was not aware of the solar farm plans. He did not know of the permit until the Charlotte Observer brought it to his attention and said he has "no communication" with Apple about these plans. A building permit which would contain construction details has not been filed.
The only people aware of the solar farm are neighbors of the data center who are complaining about smoke from the property. Apple is burning the field to clear it and, according to residents, is producing a thick smoke that blankets the surrounding area. The burning is also driving animals out of their habitat. "I had a snake on my steps," says local resident Zelda Vosburgh, "I've seen rabbits and squirrels everywhere."
It's eco-friendly move for Apple, but don't expect to be able to say the iSun is powering your iCloud anytime soon. Most of this solar power will likely go to the office part of the building, and won't be used to power the servers. Modest estimates suggest the 170 acre solar farm would generate about 24 megawatts of power, which is far below the 40 to 100 megawatts Apple's datacenter is estimated to use.
[Via DataCenter Knowledge and The Hickory Record]
Apple to build a solar farm next to North Carolina data center originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Wed, 26 Oct 2011 18:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Logitech has announced the Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 for Mac. It's the company's first solar-powered keyboard, for environmentally conscious Mac users. The K750 offers the standard Mac layout, with the addition of brightness and music controls, eject keys, and command keys. It also offers a full numeric keypad. Along the top of the K750 you can see the solar cells that keep the keyboard charged. They work off of both sunlight and indoor light. The keyboards come in five colors: all-silver, all-black, or silver with pink, green, or red solar strips at the top.
Overall, the K750 has a nice design and form factor. Not having to keep buying batteries is always a plus, and its 1/3 of an inch thinness is appreciated. However, the big drawback of the K750 is that it doesn't connect via Bluetooth. Instead it uses a proprietary Logitech dongle known as the Logitech Unifying receiver that needs to stay plugged in to your Mac in order for the keyboard to stay connected. Also, while Logitech says the keyboard itself works with you Mac right out of the box without requiring software, the Unifying dongle does need software to be compatible.
I like my wireless accessories to use Bluetooth, but if the environmental aspects of the keyboard are more important to you than the connection technology it uses, the K750 is a fine choice for you. The Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 for Mac costs US$59.99 and ships later this month.
Logitech solar-powered wireless Mac keyboard loves the sun, shuns Bluetooth originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Wed, 17 Aug 2011 18:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Apple and arch-rival/partner Samsung are both looking at creating consumer electronic devices powered by the sun, but don't expect to see them in the marketplace anytime soon.
According to a post on Asian technology website Digitimes, Taiwan-based solar firms are being considered as part of the supply chain for solar-powered devices from Apple, but these companies think that for the foreseeable future they'd be niche products. To get costs down, devices would need a standard-sized solar cell that could be mass-produced and extremely light.
A number of solar cell manufacturers are looking at organic photovoltaic cells, which have a fairly low conversion efficiency, light weight, and low production cost. Only about 5 to 8 percent of the light energy falling on these cells is converted to power, meaning that the solar cells either have to get more efficient or be sized larger. The latter option is contrary to contemporary electronics design, and it's unlikely that consumers would want to move to larger devices.
One technology that's being considered is the solar cell on paper invented at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). These organic photovoltaic cells are extremely light, but at present a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) substrate is being used by most manufacturers due to poor yields for the paper cells.
Still, it's good to see that our favorite manufacturer is looking into solar-powered devices. I look forward to the day when I can charge up a MacBook Air simply by working outside or under a bright light.
Apple reportedly considering solar-powered devices originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Wed, 27 Jul 2011 12:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Mark Spoonauer at LAPTOP got a nice story at CTIA today when he sat down with French company Wysips. The prototype he saw puts a solar panel -- a transparent solar panel, thin enough to work with touchscreens -- directly atop the screen of a phone, and with enough oomph to charge the phone with light.
The photovoltaic film (less than 100 microns deep) is only in the development phase now, but Wysips is looking forward to working with glass manufacturers (like Corning, makers of the Gorilla Glass that covers the iPhone 4) to integrate the charger film directly into screen glass.
The solar layer will generate power in room light or sunlight; this version will fully charge a phone in about 6 hours of light exposure, with future generations becoming more efficient as the technology matures. Like the plug-in hybrid technology in today's cars, it might not be enough juice to get you cross-country -- but if the solar film is cheap enough, it would certainly provide a power boost when you're away from your charger.
Fun stuff. Check out the post on LAPTOP's blog and the accompanying gallery of the Wysips prototype.