Brilliant Ideas in Biomimicry

Happy New Year, world, and let’s start things off with a ray of sunshine. My latest “Innovate” column in the January/February issue of Sierra magazine is about how engineers are employing biomimicry to increase the usefulness of solar power. The title: “Solar Designs from Nature.” [...]

New Story About Solar Forecasting in the New York Times

Years ago, on a backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevada mountains with my friend Eric, we stopped to rest in a lake basin beneath a giant blue sky. We had been in the backcountry long enough that our minds had unchained from the city, and it seemed obvious to ask Eric to name his favorite force of nature. “Clouds,” he replied, as we gazed up into the sky where a few of them wandered lonely. “Because they’re the one force on Earth that Man can’t control.” I’ve thought about Eric’s answer often, and especially in the last week or so while I reported a story for the New York Times on the new science of solar forecasting. [...]

How the Bahamas Can Get Electricity from the Ocean

I write about some pretty out-there ideas for my “Innovate” column in Sierra magazine, but the most latest subject is one that is almost ready for the big time. The subject is ocean thermal energy conversion, or OTEC. It is the unwieldy, unsexy name for a power source perfectly suited to islands. [...]

The Mud-Powered Robot

Searching about for a topic for a recent column, I stumbled across the work of Dr. Lenny Tender and his benthic microbial fuel cell. The idea blew me away once I grasped it. Tender, an electrochemist at the Naval Research Laboratory, procured a tiny but steady stream of electricity from …. river mud. [...]

Making Money from Cow Pies, and Other Big News

There are two reasons to be excited about my most recent column in Sierra magazine. One has to do with the topic, which is farmers using cow patties to fuel small electric power plants. The other has to do with the graphic we used to tell this remarkable story. [...]

New Column: The Lean, Green Data Center

For this month’s ‘Innovate’ column in Sierra magazine, I took a look at what’s being done to green the data center. [...]

Visualizing the Future of Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy — or drilling down to trap the earth’s internal heat — is an exciting source of clean power because it exists everywhere and could supply a steady and reliable source of energy. But what does it look like, that power under our feet? In order to create the idea behind the infographic for the latest “Innovate” column in Sierra magazine, I had to dig down and find my inner sketchist. [...]

Read the New Column, “Power from Tides”

My latest “Innovate” column explores the mysteries of gathering electricity from the tides. [...]

What Wind Turbine 2.0 Will Look Like

I am coming to the conclusion that the wind turbines of today — hundreds of feet tall, sporting three blades, clustered in the cornfields like rotary clubs — will soon go the way of the Model T. Good for their day, but we’ve moved on. I explored alternative designs in wind power for my latest “Innovate” column in Sierra magazine, and can report that 31 flavors of turbines are poised to engulf the plain ol’ vanilla version we know so well. It isn’t that anything’s so wrong with Old Reliable; it’s more that there’s categories of wind that a giant whirligig just can’t use. [...]

New Ideas in Rural-Size Energy

The Innovate column I write for Sierra magazine has one shortcoming: The word-count is too small for me to convey the wealth of useful resources I’ve found. Over the last few months, I blogged about the five technologies included in the March/April issue, which focused on what’s known as “Appropriate Technology.” [...]