Bacteria microgenerators?

Cool little story here — Wired.com reports on a 16-year-old Montreal student who figured out how to use a certain type of bacteria to generate electricity for a science competition. The bacteria in question is naturally magnetic, and he arranged them in a way that got them spinning and generating a tiny amount of electricity for more than 48 hours.

Beats the Van der Graaf generator I build in 1983 in Grade 8 — got enough of a static charge to burn holes in my knuckes!

MLS system needs to accommodate “green” searches

Most Canadians who have ever bought or contemplated buying a home know of the online MLS, or Multiple Listing System. Found at www.mls.ca, it allows you to search for homes and properties for sale across Canada — very convenient, and for some quite addictive. But the search engine has some limitations in an age where the energy-efficiency and other “green” features of homes are more desired and demanded.

You can ask to see homes with fireplaces, pools, central AC; you can specify price ranges and how many rooms and bathrooms you’re looking for; and you can indicate the type of property you want, whether it be a condo, townhouse, detached house or ranch.

Unfortunately, you can’t search for homes that have solar thermal, solar PV systems, geothermal systems or small-scale wind. You also can’t search by EnerGuide efficiency rating, or stipulate you don’t want homes with features such as electric or oil-furnace heating.

Perhaps this is a premature request, but doesn’t it make sense to build these search features into the system now before the number of property owners looking to promote the “green” aspects of their homes begins to increase materially? Same goes for property hunters: If I know I want a home with a geo-exchange heating and cooling system, why make me filter through hundreds of other homes in the hope I’ll luck out.

Until this ability to find and promote green homes emerges, it will be difficult to price in a green premium for a home, or appreciate why a highly efficient home or one heated/powered by renewables is more expensive than a similar home that wastes energy and sucks exclusively from the grid. Without this ability to differentiate, there will also be less pressure on homebuilders to construct green homes, and less motivation to keep up with the *green* Joneses.

Just a thought… Consider it my own personal request to the Canadian Real Estate Association.

MLS system needs to accommodate “green” searches

Most Canadians who have ever bought or contemplated buying a home know of the online MLS, or Multiple Listing System. Found at www.mls.ca, it allows you to search for homes and properties for sale across Canada — very convenient, and for some quite addictive. But the search engine has some limitations in an age where the energy-efficiency and other “green” features of homes are more desired and demanded.

You can ask to see homes with fireplaces, pools, central AC; you can specify price ranges and how many rooms and bathrooms you’re looking for; and you can indicate the type of property you want, whether it be a condo, townhouse, detached house or ranch.

Unfortunately, you can’t search for homes that have solar thermal, solar PV systems, geothermal systems or small-scale wind. You also can’t search by EnerGuide efficiency rating, or stipulate you don’t want homes with features such as electric or oil-furnace heating.

Perhaps this is a premature request, but doesn’t it make sense to build these search features into the system now before the number of property owners looking to promote the “green” aspects of their homes begins to increase materially? Same goes for property hunters: If I know I want a home with a geo-exchange heating and cooling system, why make me filter through hundreds of other homes in the hope I’ll luck out.

Until this ability to find and promote green homes emerges, it will be difficult to price in a green premium for a home, or appreciate why a highly efficient home or one heated/powered by renewables is more expensive than a similar home that wastes energy and sucks exclusively from the grid. Without this ability to differentiate, there will also be less pressure on homebuilders to construct green homes, and less motivation to keep up with the *green* Joneses.

Just a thought… Consider it my own personal request to the Canadian Real Estate Association.

Bill Ford “keenly looking” at plug-in hybrids

You’ve got to give credit to Felix Kramer of the California Cars Initiative (CalCars) and plug-in hybrid guru Prof. Andy Frank of the University of California at Davis for their passion and tenacity. As part of their ongoing mission to convince the major auto manufacturers to embrace the plug-in hybrid concept for future car models, the two have most recently focused their efforts at Ford Motor Co.

First they spoke with high-level managers at Ford about a possible program they wanted to undertake that would involve converting a small fleet of Ford Escape Hybrids into plug-in versions. But they needed the company to officially give its blessing, so they wrote a letter dated May 8 to CEO Bill Ford asking him to officially announce support for the program at the company’s shareholder meeting today or some time within the next week. At the Ford meeting Bill Ford was pressed to give an answer, and while he said there was nothing yet to announce, he did confirm “we are keenly looking at it.”

Taking that as a positive sign, Kramer hopes Ford will make its official announcement next Thursday at the White House, where the Big Three auto manufacturers will be having a meeting with President Bush.

It may be silent in Canada, but the plug-in hybrid movement is strong and growing in the United States, to the point where even the president is mentioning the benefits in public speeches. It’s only a matter of time, it seems, before the concept breaks beyond the demonstration phase. The Plug-In Partners coalition, which includes CalCars and 20 major U.S. cities, is now pushing U.S. Congress to encourage the adoption of flex-fuel plug-in hybrids (meaning the hybrids can also work on an E85 ethanol blend) with the U.S. Postal Service fleet.

Now, if only the auto makers would start listening to their customers before shoving products down their throats.

Bill Ford “keenly looking” at plug-in hybrids

You’ve got to give credit to Felix Kramer of the California Cars Initiative (CalCars) and plug-in hybrid guru Prof. Andy Frank of the University of California at Davis for their passion and tenacity. As part of their ongoing mission to convince the major auto manufacturers to embrace the plug-in hybrid concept for future car models, the two have most recently focused their efforts at Ford Motor Co.

First they spoke with high-level managers at Ford about a possible program they wanted to undertake that would involve converting a small fleet of Ford Escape Hybrids into plug-in versions. But they needed the company to officially give its blessing, so they wrote a letter dated May 8 to CEO Bill Ford asking him to officially announce support for the program at the company’s shareholder meeting today or some time within the next week. At the Ford meeting Bill Ford was pressed to give an answer, and while he said there was nothing yet to announce, he did confirm “we are keenly looking at it.”

Taking that as a positive sign, Kramer hopes Ford will make its official announcement next Thursday at the White House, where the Big Three auto manufacturers will be having a meeting with President Bush.

It may be silent in Canada, but the plug-in hybrid movement is strong and growing in the United States, to the point where even the president is mentioning the benefits in public speeches. It’s only a matter of time, it seems, before the concept breaks beyond the demonstration phase. The Plug-In Partners coalition, which includes CalCars and 20 major U.S. cities, is now pushing U.S. Congress to encourage the adoption of flex-fuel plug-in hybrids (meaning the hybrids can also work on an E85 ethanol blend) with the U.S. Postal Service fleet.

Now, if only the auto makers would start listening to their customers before shoving products down their throats.