Green up: Personal power, 'vehicles of change,' smashing trash

February 1, 2009 OpenSystems Media

For personal power generation, Tremont Electric offers the nPower Personal Energy Generator (PEG) shown in Figure 1. I saw this device firsthand at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, and itís pretty cool. The PEG is designed to produce power naturally from motion generated by walking, jogging, biking, or other activities. Itís engineered to produce 4 W of power by capitalizing on a resonant frequency associated with natural human motion, and it starts as soon as you begin moving with the device. It doesnít store power, but instead charges a wide range of consumer electronic devices over a USB connector at the same rate those devices would charge using a wall charger.

Figure 1: Tremont Electricís nPower PEG

Iíve been waiting to see innovation in alternative energy vehicles from someone other than the usual suspects. XP Vehicles has a concept that might just change our idea of what a car is. Start with the dashboard – instead of a huge chunk of plastoelectromechanics, the model has a preinflated see-through airbag, and the customizable instrument panel is projected through it. More electronics oversee safety and propulsion, including electronics in the body panels and both hydrogen-powered fuel cells and a removable power pack. Depending on the outcome of the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loans under evaluation by the U.S. Department of Energy, we might see vehicles like these soon (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: XP Vehiclesí ìvehicle of changeî

How about a smarter trash receptacle? BigBelly Solar ( has an idea thatís simple – take a trash compactor generating 1,200 lbs. of force outside and power it with a good size solar panel on the top driving the electronics. Youíll see these at Fenway Park in Boston and the Alamo in San Antonio among other places. But wait, thereís more Ö besides increasing capacity by up to 5x over uncompacted containers, these containers have a wireless system that can request emptying or service. This saves labor and fuel costs by reducing driversí collection trips to empty or less-than-full receptacles. BigBelly Solar has an idea thats simple ñ take a trash compactor generating 1,200 lbs. of force outside and power it with a good size solar panel on the top driving the electronics (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: BigBelly Solarís BigBelly Solar Compactor
Don Dingee (Editorial Director)
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