Gadgets: Green with energy

Malachy Browne turns a shade of green with the latest in energy-saving innovations



Swedish Connection

Electrical cables that intensely luminesce are sure to frustrate the power glutton into energy conservation. Designed by a collaboration of Swedish research and development companies, the Power-Aware cord does just that. Electroluminescent wires within the cord brighten and darken with power consumption, causing the cord to pulse and scintillate with various patterns that, according to the manufacturers, are difficult to ignore. The cord also allows consumers to test how different household appliances relate to each other in terms of energy consumption.Swedish gimmick

The visualisation of electricity usage in this manner is a novel idea. Though unlikely to complement a feng shui-conceived living room, the presence in the household of such a device is sure to improve energy awareness. By and large, electricity is taken for granted, but by interacting with it, the cord turns electricity into something tangible. As a result, we are more likely to consider how and when we use electricity.

The Power-Aware cord is being funded by the Swedish Energy Agency and will soon be commercially available.



Windy wattage

In another green energy development, several engineering companies are making micro turbines that, instead of connecting to the national grid, harvest wind energy for homes and commercial buildings. More discreet than the monolithic turbines lining the countryside, these micro turbines are compact, aesthetically pleasing and perfect for rooftop installation in rural or urban environments.

Micro turbineUnlike larger turbines that are fixed in position to maximise the capture of prevailing winds, most micro versions are designed to catch wind from any direction. Additionally, because the micro design mounts a lighter blade, it can generate power from a windspeed of six miles per hour and can continue generating in winds exceeding 70mph.

However, windspeed does not correlate linearly with power; a phenomenon known as the 'Betz Limit' describes a power threshold for every turbine, irrespective of windspeed. Nonetheless, one turbine model purports to generate 55kWh of electricity a month at an average windspeed of only seven miles per hour. According to WestWind Renewable Energy, this accounts for between nine and 13 per cent of an Irish household's energy consumption.

Another advantage over the larger model is that micro turbines do not have the same level of vibration, and therefore require less maintenance and repair.



Power pack

Power packThe perfect environmentally-friendly way to charge your electronic gadgets while on the move. The Voltaic backpack has three lightweight solar panels that generate enough power to charge your mobile phone, iPod, PDA or GPS receiver.

Simply plug a standard car charger into the bag, affix the required adapter (the bag comes with 11 of these) and on your bike! A long-lasting Li Ion battery (used in most laptops) stores any surplus power so you are not reliant on sunny weather – perfect for a northern winter.

The bag has a 25-litre capacity, padded straps and back panel and a waist strap. Ideal for hiking or daily commuting but a little pricey at $239.