Wireless lights for the tree
Untangling yards of Christmas tree lights is an annual holiday affair in many homes, which is why two entrepreneurs say they developed a wireless light system called eRing.
In a video that’s part of a Kickstarter campaign, Chris Higgins and Hardeep Johar of Aura say that the LEDs are permanently sealed inside a glass globe and should last for 20 years.
They get their power wirelessly from a ring that’s placed under (or in) a Christmas tree. The ring is plugged into a receptacle. When the lights are brought in close proximity to the ring, they light up. The energy transfer from the ring to the lights is made possible by a technology called resonant inductive coupling, according to an article posted at Slate last year.
Users can control the lights through an optional wireless phone app. The company said that because there are no wires to break or heat up, the eRing lights are less likely to cause a fire than conventionally powered decorations.
The Kickstarter campaign was offering early investors a dozen wireless lights and an eRing for $69 (two boxes of lights and an eRing for $89) or a wi-fi eRing and a box of lights for $99. Delivery was promised for this past October, but it’s not clear whether they’ve actually been shipped. No one at the company was available to comment.
Friendlier glue for making panels
An Oregon company is developing a healthier alternative to urea-formaldehyde adhesives, now the most widely used binders in particleboard and medium-density fiberboard.
According to Oregon BEST, which helped fund the work by EoPro Polymers, the new “formaldehyde-free, bio-based adhesive” would be the first of its kind in the panel-goods market.
More than 60% of MDF and particleboard is currently made with a urea-formaldehyde adhesive, which off-gases formaldehyde, a carcinogen, over time. Some manufacturers use a formaldehyde-free adhesive called methylene diphenyl di-isocyanate (MDI), but workers in plants where it is manufactured must wear personal protection equipment, and long-term exposure to MDI can lead to health problems, including asthma, Oregon BEST said.
MDI-based adhesives also can’t be used on some production equipment that manufacturers prefer.
EcoPro founder Humayan Mandal said in a press release, “We’ve come up with a whole different formula that addresses both the off-gassing from urea-formaldehyde products as well as panel manufacturing issues associated with MDI.”
The adhesive is currently undergoing lab tests at Oregon State University. One company that’s interested in using it is SpekPly, another startup, which has been looking for a nontoxic, plant-based adhesive for use in a new architectural product line, Striata.
Mississippi now has net-metering
Utility regulators have approved the state’s first net-metering plan, five years after first opening a docket on the issue.
UtilityDive reports that rates were set at 7 cents to 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour for a period of three years. Entergy, one of the two investor-owned utilities affected by the case, had suggested that producers of electricity be paid 4 cents to 4.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Solar advocates had hoped for 10 cents a kWh, the current retail rate for Entergy customers.
To counter concerns that non-solar or non-wind customers, including those with lower incomes, would be subsidizing renewable systems for others, the three-member Public Service Commission required Entergy and Mississippi Power in its December 3 decision to offer an additional 2 cents a kWh for the first 1,000 low-income participants.
The South Mississippi Electric Power Association, representing 11 member co-ops, argued that the commission didn’t have the authority to impose a net-metering rule on them. But the commission told the association to file its own net-metering plans by next October.
Mississippi became the 45th state to adopt some form of net-metering rule, the Mississippi Business Journal reported.
Commissioner Brandon Presley said in a written statement, “Mississippians are self-sufficient. They like to fix their own cars and grown their own food. They should be able to make their own power, too.”
Presley described the net-metering rate approved by the commission as “the cost the utility will not have to spend each month plus 2.5 cents for unquantifiable benefits.” The commission plans to revisit the rule in five years for evaluation, Presley said.
“Passing this rule is a big step toward creating a solar market in our state,” he said, “a step that could one day benefit all ratepayers. No one can predict what the cost of electricity or gas will be tomorrow but I can tell you that the sunshine will be free.”