Archive for the ‘1. The Project’ Category

1.3.2 Renewable Energy

Monday, May 11th, 2009

What is it?

Any source of energy that can be replenished faster or as fast as it is being used is per definition a renewable energy source. The burning of fossil fuels & thermo nuclear energy is not regarded as renewable energy forms.

Independent of exising infrastructure

Independent of exising infrastructure

Where is it?

To have renewable energy you needs to capture it from a natural source that contain energy. Wind, Light and Flowing Water are the most common energy sources. As flowing water has a much higher density than wind, it is much more efficient as an energy source. A large wind turbine is required to capture the wind, but a small water turbine might capture the same amount in water. Solar Panels can convert up to 40% of the light that hits them in the best case scenario, but due to their small format and long life cycle they are ideal for powering remote equipment of different types.

Politics

Renewable Energy is a commonly referred to by many in the public discourse, and it seems to have become more so in the current strained financial times[1]. As one can see from the google trends graph below, the interest and media coverage is high and rising:

Trends for Renewable Energy on the web

The ongoing climate debate does also push for action and the decision makers are moved towards this field as government funds globally feels more just if spent on this cause rather the banks and financial systems. Change is needed and it should and will come from this field, but tradition, cost, legislation and expensive infrastructure are dampers on development.

President Obama is trying to start a shift towards an industry that will produce renewable energy technology and equipment and is using government funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to stimulate this development. This stimulus is part of the plan to get back up again after the crisis that has hit American finance and automotive industries quite hard[2].

References in this post
  1. Google. (2009, April 04). Renewable Energy. Retrieved April
    02, 2009, from Google Trends: http://www.google.com/
    trends?q=renewable+energy [*]
  2. Whitehouse.gov, “Energy & Environment”, 19. March 2009, http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/energy_and_environment/, (Accessed: April 2009 [*]

1.3.4 Electricity from a business perspective

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

I have discovered that there is an discrepancy between the actual map of where a consumer is positioned in the grid from a business perspective and how consumers perceive electricity.This is quite obvious looking at charts provided by industry organisations.

Smart Grid Complexity

Smart Grid Complexity

This is part of why I have not cooperated with actors in the industry in this project, as they are obligated to consider the existing and future infrastructure and market mechanisms which are complex.

I did however try do find out what opportunities I had as a private home owner in Oslo. Most of Oslo is operated electrically by Hafslund AS. I requested if there was a device that automatically read my consumption data and their answer was:

We offer a remote reading of your meter, that reads once every hour.The data will be automatically sent to us.

Once every hour is not very impressive, and they send it back to them? Well I want something I could review in real time. Further:

If you want such a meter its cost is 2500.- NOK. But with-in 2013 all meters will be replaced with smart meters[1].

This was interesting, but the price and low use value discouraged me for buying such a meter. I’ll wait to 2013 then.

References in this post
  1. Kordal, Renate. Hafslund Nett Support. March 6, 2009. [*]

1.3.5 Electricity from a home perspective

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

Electricity provides comfort and is the platform our modern society is built upon. Still electricity is not very present in our conciousness or daily life. We depend upon it, but we do seldom touch it. I believe this is the primary touch points in our daily life with electricity:

Comfort

Providing comfort

Providing comfort

Electricity provides us with an instant and unlimited source of energy that power all the items that makes our lives more comfortable. Light and heat affects us the most as energy source for easy reading, preparing meals, stable indoor temperature and entertainment. I believe our habit of easy comfort would be greatly compromised without access to unlimited and readily available energy.

Anachronism

Anachronisms in a digital life

Anachronisms in a digital life

Some times, as parts of the infrastructure might be old and strained, we have to change the active components in the system, like a fuse. In our modern world there is a surprisingly high number of old electrical infrastructure around us. There is ofcourse variance to this, but that such analogue items even exists today is for me a bit bewildering.

Money

Online payment

Online payment

In Norway the electricity is quite cheap and only varies a little through the seasons. Other countries have different pricing through the day to encourage saving when the total consumption is high.

Summary

These touchpoints makes it quite visible how little we can affect our daily handling of electricity. We cannot easily change the source of the currents, we depend upon an hierarchy for distribution we cannot control.

1.3.3 Distributed Generation

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

Distributed Generation
Using the peer to peer concept in energy distribution will enable home consumers to become producers of energy and supply their electricity to others on the smart grid[1]. The grid is used here as short for the general electrical infrastructure (or “grid”) that is required to distribute electricity to the end consumer. Today the grid usually only deliver electricity, but technology is available to enable feedback of electricity from the end consumer, this is a feature of “The Smart Grid”. I think that this development could create a greater sense of solidarity in small as well as large communities. When you get ownership and control over your energy in a much more direct way than is possible today, I think you would like to see how and where it is used also. How would this impact our relation to our energy?

Cornucopica Norwegia
The current paradigm of electricity in Norway imitates a cornucopia. The only variable to energy supply (in form of electricity) is the price. As a consequence the only concern I might have regarding the electricity, is the bill. What if we flipped the coin? What if the price was fixed, but supply was limited? Arguably global energy supply is not unlimited, although growing, so is demand.

Early Exploration
At a local scale I will explore how a limited resource can be shared in a P2P fashion by augmenting it with local production of energy. The goal is to uncover useful concepts that will challenge existing paradigms in energy supply. 1. The green apartment are producing more energy than needed, while the red appartment has a deficit.2. The green appartment shares its surplus with the red appartment.3. At any given moment there are apartments producing, receiving and some that are neutral in this system. How does this impact the daily life of the families living in this apartment block? How can this be done in such a manner that it feels just?

References in this post
  1. European Commission. (2006). European Technology Platform Smart Grids. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. [*]

1.2.4 Dictionary

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Technologies and systems in the energy discourse are usually less known by general public. The buzzwords are visible, but their meaning are more vague. The dictionary tries to explain a few concepts and words.

Utility: Short for “Public Utility” which refers to the company that maintains an infrastructure that is a public infrastructure. Communication, Water, Electricity, Natural Gas and Sewage are the usual services these companies operate the infrastructure for. When I refer to a “Utility” in this text I signify a company that operates the public electric infrastructure. These infrastructures are expensive to run so they often are monopolies on a local and/or national scale.

The Grid: Refers to a network that can have physical similarities to a grid. “The Grid” can have several meanings depending on who you talk to, but the name usually relates to the physical structure of an Public Utility. In this text however “The Grid” reflects the interconnected electrical infrastructure that electricity is distributed through.

The Smart Grid: From a utility perspective the smart grid is at a large scale already implemented in many places. The backbones of the electric infrastructure are aware of its own status through various sensing devices. When one area of a country needs more power this is automatically or semi-automatically remedied. This is also called load balancing.

From an end user perspective the current Grid is not very smart. The devices called smart meters, that measures electrical consumption automatically and send the data to the power seller, are for the most part there to help the businesses retrieve accurate and real time information on their product[1].

Fuel Cell: Traditionally a fuel is burned to put its energy into useful work like motion. A fuel cell can convert this energy directly into a useful state, without burning it, in the form of electricity. A bonus is that if Hydrogen is used, the only output aside from heat and electricity is water. The fuel cell combines hydrogen (stored in a tank) and oxygen (derived from the air) in a catalytic reaction into water. In this process both heat and electricity is generated.

Electricity: A current is the movement of an electrical charge in a medium. Usually this is electrons running though a copper wire. The number of electrons passing a point can be measured and is measured in Amperes (A). More known to the end consumer is Watts, as every appliance and bulb at home usually are marked with their maximum Watt rating. The price we pay for our electricity consumption is based on how many thousand watt hours (kWh) we consume. 1kWh is consumed by a 1000W appliance in 1 hour.

Photo Voltaics: The field of research on Solar Cells. A Photo Voltaic cell (or solar cell) can convert light directly into a current that can be put to work.

Energy Dashboard: A virtual control panel provided either in a dedicated hardware or as a Graphical User Interface on the internet or in a custom software. This type of control panel usually display statistics of consumption, but more advanced versions can compare statistics with others and/or function as a remote to the various systems and appliances relevant to the management of energy in your home.

gadget: Small mechanical or electronic equipment.

ubiquitous computing: A term that a Mark Weiser introduced a few decades ago. In this field of work the computer as a physical device has been assimilated into all objects and as a result computing is all around us. The possibilities for new interactions with our environment in a post-desktop future are part of what ubiquitous computing explores[2].

greenwashing: A term for intentionally make products and services appear as ecological friendly by adding words and phrases related to the ecological friendly movements. “Green”, “Eco” and “Sustainable” are examples of such words[3].

API: “Application Protocol Interface” is an specification for programmers to use when they are connecting one product to another. The API allow information to flow between two different systems.

GUI: “Graphical User Interface” is the visual expression of a software where you can observe its output.

References in this post
  1. European Commission. (2006). European Technology Platform
    Smart Grids. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the
    European Communities [*]
  2. Greenfield, A. (2006). Everyware. Berkley: New Riders [*]
  3. http://www.greenwashingindex.com/what.php [*]

1.3.6 Ambitions

Monday, April 27th, 2009

I will try to change the existing preconceptions and challenge current paradigms of the energy discourse, but that is a daunting task. But I will argue that the result suggests a scenario where the end consumer is a producer and as equal to the next user or producer as in a file sharing network online. That would be the starting point for further design work in a new discourse in the field of energy in our homes.

The best efforts today are done to make consumers aware of their consumption and the assumption that this alone reduces consumption with 5-15%[1]. The motivation for doing so are usually from user perspective; to save money, or from the producer perspective; to save money. Some initiatives focus on the motivation of reducing the environmental impact. I want to empower the consumer with full control over his or hers consumption and encourage to home production of energy under the motivation of contribution, status and community spirit.

References in this post
  1. Darby, S. (2006). The effectiveness of feedback on Energy consumption. Oxford: University Of Oxford [*]

1.3.1 Prologue

Monday, April 27th, 2009

The relevance of the diploma

There is a continuous stream of articles and news bites from various channels. The science magazines are currently having special issues on the theme and newspapers more frequently report on renewable energy projects. The global political agenda seems to be covering two causes; the financial crisis and the route out of it that includes a build up of industry that produces renewable energy equipment.

The Challenges of the diploma

Renewable energy can be seen as a “Magic Bullet” that gives us carte blanch in consuming energy. If technical challenges are surpassed and we have a surplus of renewable energy then we are in the free zone and can use power without any concern. So thinking of renewable energy as an unlimited supply (which per definition it is) can render all conscious thoughts of energy use mute. But from today with 86% fossil fuel use globally we have a long way to go[1]. The transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy seems might need to go faster than technology and adaptation at the moment is evolving.

Situation in Norway

Norway has since the middle of the seventies been a big producer of oil[2]. The oil has given us great experiences in offshore technology and also given us huge revenues. The downside is also our states dependence on oil for revenue and the need for producing oil for quite a long time until other industry can give us similar income.

For domestic energy consumption the citizens of Norway has been supplied with electricity from pure mountain water which is quite the opposite of fossil fuels that is burned once and then gone. I wonder if this polarization in energy production has lulled Norwegians into a belief that we, Norway, are clean. The perceivably clean, land based hydro power is delivered to our homes and the possibly dirty, offshore oil drilling is produced beyond our horizon.

Today, in Norway at least, domestic energy production is highly centralized in big power plants that produce electricity and sell it through an energy exchange open to the Scandinavian market. The buyers of this energy are the companies that in the end sell it to the consumer. This monetary flow is managed separately to the electricity flow. The actual electricity has to be used as it is produced and the routing of the electricity cannot be specified to the consumer in other ways than ensuring that the volume produced and sold is equal to the volume consumed.

In Norway is 98,5% of all electrical energy produced from water, with another 0,5% from wind. There is also a ongoing drive to enable owners of smaller streams to utilize its energy in miniature turbines and sell its energy. Electrical energy delivered to end consumers amounts to 51% of total energy consumption in Norway. The rest are fuels for industry and transportation (NVE 2008)[3]

References in this post
  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_energy_resources_and_consumption#cite_note-BPReview-1 [*]
  2. http://www.museumsnett.no/ntm/no/utstillingene/Jakten_oljen/historie.htm [*]
  3. Norges Vassdrags- og energidirektorat, “Produksjon”, 1. April 2008, http://www.nve.no/no/Kraftmarked/Sluttbrukermarkedet/Varedeklarasjon/Produksjon-/, (Accessed: April 2009) [*]

1.2.2 Structure

Monday, April 27th, 2009

The non-linear nature of posting articles or posts in a reverse chronological order requires some form of indexing to be accessible for linear reading. This has been done using the following structure.

A diagram over the diploma structure

A diagram over the diploma structure

intro.untappedEnergy

This is the printed introduction to the diploma. It contains an introduction to all parts of the work and includes leads for most of the articles in this blog. Download here.

behind.untappedEnergy.org

Categorized as a research blog this blog contains all written and visual material that relates to the projects processes.

untappedEnergy.org

Contextualizing my ideas and concepts through an informal, but fictional community blog gives visitors to the site the opportunity to participate in an discourse. The personas who operate the blog are created by me, some of the comments made not from my personas are from other persons that are outside of the project.

Both blogs have generic visual designs (themes) made by third parties[1]. The themes are in some details customised by me to suit specific needs for navigation and storytelling.

References in this post
  1. http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/ [*]

1.2.3 Why blogging?

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Motivation
Intrinsic in a blog is its presence on-line, which has benefits of a potential wide audience. This has in one case already created a lot of feedback and interest in the project. In being a blog the narrative can be more subjective and personal in tone, as in the scenario blog, but also discursive and reflective as in the diploma blog. The blog format is also characterised by discrete articles or post that usually appear in a reverse chronological appearance. The aim of choosing the blog format is to have a pliable text with wide reach and exploit the open format to enter a discourse both in format and content.

Background
Anne Galloway, explored the use of the blog format quite extensively in her Ph.D. dissertation on Urban computing and Locative media that ended in 2008. While working on the academic paper she maintained a blog throughout the process and published more than 2000 articles in an eight year period.[1] Her view on the blog format went through a revolution over the course of this process and in an academic setting she discovered the blog to be a

tool for focusing, for exchanging information and being part of a discussion which potentially extends beyond the academic community … [A] tool with which to think about [my] research, its values, connections and links to other aspects of the world.[2]

Later she returns to Mortensen and Walker to further point out that a keeping a blog

straddle the boundaries between publication and process, between writing towards others and writing for oneself. A weblog is always both for oneself and for one’s readers. If it were only for oneself, a private diary would be more useful. If it were only for readers, and not a tool for oneself, a more polished and finished form of publication would probably be more appropriate.[2]

The ambiguity stemming from the personal expression in writing personal, informal narratives known from diaries to at the same time write for an audience is my fascination with the blog format. Balancing the personal versus official while writing for the thesis have been tricky and might result in sudden changes in the tone in the voice. Galloway writes that this type of ambiguity is valuable if you are aware of this. Then you get both into the mindset of the researcher and his/hers personal viewpoints as well as the ongoing research as in the field diary of an anthropologists.

The participatory nature of writing, response and counter-argument on blogs allows for ongoing debate, critical refinement and thinking-in-process. In this sense, what is rarely acknowledged about blogging is how much it contributes to and mirrors traditional scholarly practice rather than threatening it.[3]

The difficulty here is due to the fact that blogs sit irregularly between familiar modes of address, never quite addressing a person (dialogue), never quite addressing a crowd (speech, public address), never quite speaking to oneself (diary, monologue, soliloquy)— and no one struggles more with this ambiguity, this awkwardness of address, than bloggers themselves … [B]logs appear to be shifting the balance of personality and impersonality in the operation of publics and in the production of public subjects[4].

Two blogs
As I started this project by publishing my research on my regular blog and i felt that worked quite well I chose on a later stage to split the content in two separate sites. This was done to contain the diploma separated from unrelated posts.

References in this post
  1. Galloway, A. (2008, May 5). Dissertation. Retrieved April 15, 2009, from purselipsquarejaw.org: http://www.purselipsquarejaw.org/dissertation/galloway_phd_ch3.pdf [*]
  2. Mortensen, T., & Walker, J. W. (2002). Blogging thoughts. Researching ICTs in context (pp. 249-279). Oslo: InterMedia [*] [*]
  3. Gregg and Melissa (2006). Feeling ordinary: Blogging1 as conversational scholarship. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 20(2):147-160. [*]
  4. Cohen, K.R. (2006) “A Welcome for Blogs.” Continuum: Journal of Media &
    Culture Studies 20(2): 161–173. [*]

1.2.1 Diploma Program

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Abstract
The diploma will research and explore design opportunities related to renewable energy in the context of the family home. Concepts related to local production and/or conservation of energy will be investigated.

Keywords
Energy, Distributed Energy Production/Conservation, Use Qualities, Home, Family, Everyday Life, Physical Computing, Mobile Technology, Communication, Design Research, Lightness, Renewable Energy

Introduction
The modern world as of today consumes resources at a pace not sustainable in the future. “Earth 3.0” (Rennie, 2008) has been launched as a term for a situation where we keep the prosperity of the industrial revolution (Earth 2.0, i.e. today) and return to a sustainability of the earth before modern times (Earth 1.0). By using design methodologies and looking into our closest environment, the home and family, I will try to find and create opportunities that can impact behavior concerning energy use without moralizing and restrict our prosperity, but by trying to move forward on constructive and engaging path.

Background
Distributed Energy Production/Conservation
The reasoning for covering my bases with production/conservation is that I see those topics as being closely related. The project might address just production or conservation, but a combination would also be valid to explore.
Energy production and use is a source for global attention. Today most of the energy is produced in centralized power plants and used by all sorts of end users with various consciousnesses concerning the energy consumption. Current initiatives for energy made from renewable sources have introduced the possibility to produce your own power in a decentralized way (Rifkin, 2002). What design opportunities lies in promoting a decentralized way of thinking about energy?
Title
“Untapped Energy” – for a person, like me, who are firmly plugged into the power grid it feels like renewable energy has a long way to go before it becomes natural in my household. We need some sort of “tap” that could deliver the sun or the wind right in our kitchen when we need it. The working title suggests that there is a potential for concepts to explore this field and maybe bring renewable energy closer to home.
Context
By using the family, the standard western family of parents with kids, as the base context for my development I have a familiar situation that lots of people can relate to. This context will help my project that its presentation will reach more people outside of the design community. The family as an institution also has a wide set of connections with its surroundings. I believe this will open a range of possible design opportunities.

Motivation
I enjoy research into technical fields that have potential untapped insights. Hopefully those insights can be converted to useful concepts that enable more transparent and approachable interfaces between man and technology. This involves writing as a tool to get a fundamental understanding of the area, but also practical design tasks incorporating aesthetics and designing experiences as well as developing concepts and products. Moving a foggy concept into a readily understandable and useful artefact is an interesting design challenge.

Ambitions
The Diploma will aim to explore and design concepts and ideas that aim to challenge existing preconceptions of current energy production/conservation and try to give insights into where this will go in the near future. What it not will do is to deliver a readymade product or service at a level where it can be industrialized.

Methods
These methods will be at the core of this diploma:

  • Literature studies, including articles in magazines and online.
    • To gain an understanding of the field.
  • “State of the art” research and evaluation.
  • Surveying the field of renewable energy in homes related to technology and design.
    • To understand what has been done and why it works/not works. Together with” State of the art” research this will help positioning my project relative to the others.
  • Inspirational research
    • Looking into ideas and visuals that not necessarily are related, but can serve as wildcards in the concept development.
  • Visual Idea bank
    • A visual storage of the ideas encountered throughout the project.
  • Physical and/or digital exploration of ideas and concepts.
    • To detail concepts to a level useful for testing and evaluation.
  • Evaluation of explored ideas and concepts.
    • To gain insight into positive and negative sides of the developed concepts. Also compared to relevant existing concepts.

The two last points in the list will constitute the main product of the diploma.

Deliverables
During the exploration phase I will develop one or more concepts, digital or physical, that is used in my research and evaluation. I will also deliver documentation of the research, exploration and e-valuation of the work done throughout the semester. This documentation will draw on the resources gathered such as photos, drawings, blog posts other assets generated. The argument for keeping a blog is to write notes at a higher level than I would do in my private notebook. This helps me to formulate ideas and thoughts while presenting them to others in a readable format and thereby hopefully contribute to the discourse in the field.

Schedule

Initial schedlue for planned tasks

Initial schedule for planned tasks

Initial bibliography
Bell, G., & Dorish, P. (2006). Yesterday’s tomorrows: notes on ubiquitous computing’s dominant vision. London: Springer-Verlag London Limited.
Bonsiepe, G. (1995). The Chain of Innovation – Science, Technology, Design. Design Issues , 33-36.
Datschefski, E. (2001). The total beauty of sustainable products. Crans-Près-Céligny: RotoVision.
Diamond, J. (2005). Collapse. London: Penguin Books.
Igoe, T. (2008). Making Things Talk. In T. Igoe, Making Things Talk.
Löwgren, J., & Stolterman, E. (2004). Thoughtful Interaction Design. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Rennie, J. (2008). Editor’s letter. Scientific American , 2.
Thackara, J. (2005). In the bubble. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Webb, M. (2006, October 21). 3C Products. Retrieved February 1, 2008, from Schulze & Webb: http://schulzeandwebb.com/blog/2006/11/21/3c-products/
World Alliance for Distributed Energy. (2008, January 1). WADE. Retrieved January 14, 2009, from WADE info: http://www.localpower.org/abt_mission.html