Today in Cleantech

What’s going on in the world of competitive electricity markets? To find out, I’ve come to Houston, where the Texas Electricity Professionals Association is holding its fall conference. TEPA is a group of retail electricity providers and “ABCs” โ€” aggregators, brokers and consultants โ€” that serve the deregulated-slash-“competitive” Texas power market, the biggest in the United States. Still, it’s not the only one โ€” Taff Tschamler, executive director of KEMA, told the audience that competitive U.S. markets make up about $45 billion, or 600 terawatt-hours of the country’s roughly 3,800 TWhs. That share should rise to about 700 TWhs by 2015, with New England and Mid-Atlantic states included, and Pennsylvania and Ohio moving to open up their power markets more completely. KEMA sees another 1,300 TWhs in the U.S. being “eligible” for a shift to competitive markets, Tschamler said. Of course, with the general public’s concept of power market deregulation mainly being the Enron/California fiasco in 2000 and 2001, deregulation advocates will need to take their message to regulators and customers, and show that deregulation works to lower prices and improve reliability.

In the Heart of Texas, a Wind Power Transmission Snag

Nobody likes high-voltage transmission lines running through their backyards, not even in the energy-loving heart of Texas. Recently a group of landowners (the Heart of Texas Landowners Coalition) persuaded the stateโ€™s regulators to force utility Oncor to reroute a $100 million transmission line around their property.

Pivot Bluetooth Keyboard: a worthy tool for your mobile device?

PivotbluetoothkeyboardThat’s the question I ask when reading any reviews of mobile peripherals: is it worth carrying around all the time with my [insert mobile device name here]? I’m a huge fan of the Think Outside Stowaway wireless keyboard that I use with my UMPC, so I had to read pocketnow’s Pivot Bluetooth Keyboard review. From a size and form-factor perspective, the Pivot looks very similar to the older Think Outside model: the keyboard unfolds from two halves but the keys are a little smaller. There’s five key rows on the Pivot to the older TO’s four that I used to own; I always missed the dedicated number row as a result.Like many other wireless keyboards, the Pivot works with Windows Mobile as well as Windows, but it relies on the standard Bluetooth HID driver. As a result, pocketnow found that some hotkeys didn’t work consistently on different devices. Probably not a deal-breaker, but it would be nice to see OS-specific drivers to address this. Most portable wireless keyboards don’t come cheap and the Pivot is no exception here: it will cost you $139.99 direct. If you can still find a Think Outside Sierra like I did, I’d consider that over the Pivot. This larger keyboard still folds up, but provides a full-size typing experience that you’ll appreciate if you do heavy text input. You might even consider the $79 Apple Bluetooth keyboard; it doesn’t fold up but it’s light and thin, plus it pairs nicely with a UMPC. I’ve paired it with a Windows Mobile 6 device as well, but only some of the keys work and I just can’t do without the letter “a”. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Lenovo IdeaPad U110 in da house- sexy factor off the meter!

I’ve only had it in my hands for just a few minutes but let me tell you, the Lenovo IdeaPad U110 is the sexiest notebook I’ve played with by far.  It is almost as light and thin as the latest model by that fruit company but far smaller overall due to its 11.1-inch screen running at a cool 1366×768 resolution.  I won’t get into much detail here but I had to share some photos of this very attractive notebook.  This unit has a Core 2 Duo processor running at 1.6 GHz, 2 GB of memory, a 5-in-1 card reader, ExpressCard slot, VeriFace face recognition login, web cam, Bluetooth, WiFi, two batteries (4 and 7 cells), external DVD drive, 3 USB 2.0 ports, firewire, Dolby sound system, whew!  That’s a lot in such a small package.  How small?  275 x 196 x 22.4 mm weighing in at 2.42 – 2.92 lbs depending on the battery attached.  Here’s the promised pics until later:


More after the jump.

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EnerNOC Waltzes Into Texas

New England-based demand-response company EnerNOC is heading into the Wild West of Texas! It has inked a deal with the state’s Electric Reliability Council to participate in a blackout prevention program that goes beyond large industrial users.

As a Texas resident, I’m all for blackout reductions heading into summer. ERCOT has used demand-response systems to control power flow on the grid and reduce power consumption by large industrial users for a number of years; most recently it used the system after wind turbines slowed just as evening electric usage was powering up.

EnerNOC, which has operations in New England and Florida, focuses on providing demand-response systems for businesses and other mid-sized utility customers. It joins four other companies that will work with mid-sized businesses in Texas to reduce power when ERCOT decides power reserves in the state have fallen below a certain number of megawatts. ERCOT can spend up to $50 million on its Emergency Interruptible Load Service (EILS) program every year.

Texas Gets the Wind Taken Out of Its Sails

Less than a week after the New York Times celebrated Texas’ dominant position in wind power, a cool, still day dawned. The cold weather drove residents to crank up the heat, but the lack of wind to turn turbines pushed the state’s electric grid into emergency mode. On Tuesday night, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas cut off power for 90 minutes to those customers who had agreed to accept power interruptions. And it was a full three hours before everything was back to normal.

All of which proves that while, cheap, clean and renewable, it’s pretty hard to know which way the wind will blow.

Organize Your Life With Jott

With this entry, Chris Poteet joins the WWD team as a contributing writer. Look for his posts every week. Welcome, Chris! -Ed

Every once-in-a-while I find an application like Jott that truly revolutionizes the way I organize my life.

We all write notes on pieces of paper, napkins, etc.; but they often get lost in the shuffle. Jott comes along and helps you consolidate your tasks, notes, and events into one spot. All you do it call the Jott number, and you hear a voice that says: “What do you want to Jott?” You then give the folder name you’ve created, contact, or application and simply speak your message. Jott translates voice into text and then, based on your preferences, either e-mails you or adds the event. It also stores the message for historical purposes on the Jott website.

The premise is simple, the sign-up is easy. After signing up you can then call the Jott number to record messages instantly.

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Need-to-Know Web Video Metrics

Driven by the inability of page views to properly measure people’s use of sites with streaming video and AJAX, Nielsen/NetRatings is switching to ranking websites by time spent. Now, how’s about those offsite widgets… (Associated Press)

“What constitutes a view?” we asked a couple weeks ago, noting disparities between various video hosting sites as researched by TubeMogul. Now the Interactive Advertising Bureau is looking to create guidelines to figure out how a stream compares to an episode to a click on the play button, according to TVWeek.

Meanwhile, Mark Cuban is elaborating on his argument that simultaneous and immediate throngs of viewers to an online video are most valuable. I still think this is a bit off-base, watching the swells of popularity wash up newly discovered video gems.

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Hooked on a Meme-ing

How does a meme start? It has less to do with craft and more to do with who you know and where you find them. In this case, some second-degree acquaintance pays attention to CollegeHumor, introduces me third-hand to the “Dramatic Chipmunk” thread — and even though, as Bryan Veloso discovered, it’s a Japanese TV clip of a prarie dog and not a chipmunk, everyone’s already hooked. The CollegeHumor subtitle pretty much nails it: “Best five second video on the internet.”

Nick Douglas (video maker and lifecaster), Veronica Belmont (who makes lots of video for CNET), Drew Olanoff (of Scriggity) and Justine Ezarik (a.k.a. iJustine) have already joined the circus, filming themselves watching the dramatic chipmunk’s fateful head-turn, and fatefully turning their heads too.

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Satellite Broadband does not work

This morning WSJ reported that News Corp is pulling the plug on its satellite-based Internet service. Hughes Electronics had embarked on an ambitious plan to deliver broadband to consumers and businesses using satellites made by Boeing. Seems News Corp executives have doubts about the financial viability of the plan. The company will be launching one Spaceway satellite, but will be using it for HDTV broadcast. This indeed is good news for the cable guys, who should be smart enough to capitalize on this and use broadband service as another way to keep the customers on coax. Sure there are some others who are trying to play with satellite broadband but News Corp’s decision says one thing loudly and clearly: the economics for large scale satellite Internet service are not right.