Posts Tagged ‘LED lights’

Dean Kamen is known for his many inventions, some of which have transformed the world, from the insulin pump and an all-terrain wheelchair to portable water purification systems and robotic prosthetic limbs. Of course, others, like his Segway self-balancing electric scooter (which visitors to the Texas capitol will see whizzing past with curious sightseers holding on for dear life), became more of a pop-culture phenomenon than a major boost to his pocketbook.Austin capitol segway tourists

His love for science, technology, engineering and innovating has made him wealthy and in 1986, Kamen bought a tiny, 2-acre private island off the coast of Connecticut in Long Island Sound, where he began bumping heads with the local authorities from the town of Southold, N.Y., which has jurisdiction over the island, when he wanted to put up a wind turbine.  Like our Governor Perry, he made noises about seceding, but eventually did receive his variance to build his personal wind turbine. That turbine, coupled with the use of solar panels, provides the island with all its power. He replaced all the island’s lighting with LEDs, which cut down his in-house energy consumption by 70 percent, thus creating the most carbon-neutral kingdom (his pseudo island nation kingdom) on the planet — “carbon-negative,” in fact.

Kamen’s methods may sometimes seem childish and self-serving, but he claims to use mirth to attract attention to what he considers his most important work: inspiring others to think outside the box in developing new ways to live better lives and he hopes to inspire young people to follow his lead in seeking out innovation so that they, too, can become island rulers — or at least the masters of their fates.

Let’s hope that he does inspire people in this country to innovate and they can lead us into a new energy future.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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santaTexas cities are working extra hard this holiday season on efficiency measures of all shapes and sizes. Do you think they’re looking for energy and resource savings, or could this just be a last minute push to make Santa’s “nice” list? In keeping with the holiday spirit, I’ll applaud these cities for good behavior, motives aside.


The Houston City Council approved a $16.4 million contract last week to replace city traffic signals with energy efficient LED lights. The new lights will save the city more than $4 million a year on electricity bills.

Said city mayor Bill White,

“We want to use energy-efficient lighting and make energy-efficient improvements for the same reason that Wal-Mart does, and that is to reduce costs and save money over the long run and to give Houston a competitive advantage.”

The city has several other green initiatives in the works, such as stepping up recycling programs, installing solar panels, buying renewable energy and hybrid vehicles, and establishing new building energy codes.


Houston decided to festoon its official holiday tree with LED lights as well, meaning that this year’s tree will use one-tenth the energy of last year’s spruce.

And last but not least, city officials announced the winners of Houston’s “Recycle Ike!” contest to determine the best way to recycle tree debris from September’s disastrous hurricane. A team of Rice students and scientists won first place for their plan to turn the waste into biomass charcoal (“biochar”) in a pilot bioreactor to be built on campus.


Austinites need not turn green with envy, because our city has recently rolled out some great new initiatives as well.

My favorite is the Pecan Street Project, a new smart-grid project. Says Brewster McCracken, the mayor pro-tem,

“The goal of the Pecan Street Project is to provide one power plant’s worth of clean, renewable energy, and to produce it within the city of Austin.”

A smart grid would allow utilities to deliver energy more efficiently and provide customers with the information to make more efficient energy choices.

For more information on smart grids, check out Kate Galbraith’s post on Green, Inc., the New York Times’ energy and environment blog.

The Austin City Council has also been discussing a new “zero-waste” plan to keep 90% of the city’s waste out of landfills by2040. The Council is slated to vote on the plan this Thursday. I hope they remember that Santa’s watching!



The city of Round Rock is also looking into an ordinance to get customers to consume less water. The ordinance would jack up the cost of water for excessive users during dry summer months, educate people on the need for conservation, and step up conservation efforts citywide.

I’d say all that deserves a holiday “Huzzah”!

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