The Energy Pilots program was a fictional business research institute with the mission of proposing new business models that could make low carbon energy cost competitive with traditional, higher carbon options.
Since developing the project, I’ve seen a few examples of energy companies going beyond the standard money/kWh model we’ve been using for ages.
In this instance, the Energy Plus program is not completely transparent, but it seems that the energy company might stand to gain customers by partnering with Delta SkyMiles.
It’s an encouraging example of energy companies leveraging other factors, although not exclusive to low carbon technologies.
Last Friday night, a pharmacy & 99¢ store on Flatbush Avenue in downtown Brooklyn held a “Time-Warp Opening,” selling a variety of products one might desire in the future; from space suit lining-replacements, to DIY organ-transplant kits, to life form creation tools.
These speculative products were the outcome of The Extrapolation Factory, a futurization workshop developed and lead by Elliott P. Montgomery and Chris Woebken, and held at Studio-X NYC. On February 9th, eager factory workers spent the day selecting forecasts from a futures-database, categorizing them into ‘lenses’ on a wall-sized diagram, and then ‘looked’ through these lenses to establish unique visions of the future. The forward-looking views were expressed as stories of possible future scenarios, each giving birth to a product concept that might be found in a 99¢ store of the future. Workers then fabricated and packaged these future products at the factory’s rapid-prototyping station. Every item included its inspiration story, as well as the initial forecasts and sources that support it.
On the following Friday, an existing 99¢ store was stocked with the future products, alongside an inventory of items from the present (mobile phone accessories) as well as dated objects (rain bonnets) and timeless ones (toothpicks). Products like Benzene Vapor Refills, Mars Survival Kits, and Triple-Nipple Baby Bottles sold like synthetic hot cakes at the one-night-only event. Throughout the evening, curious shoppers speculated with one another on the prospects of the exciting, the terrible and the mundane futures hinted at by the objects in their hands.
This project and the related events were supported by Autodesk, Studio-X NYC and Brooklyn Brewery.
Just seeing this article on the history of the physical presence of data storage. Olivares tracks data storage from the earliest storage models to the cloud. He also gathered, studied and photographed several contemporary hard drives as an homage to the fleeting physicality of data storage.
The DOE recently posted this infographic which reminded me of the following brief exploration I did several years ago while in residency at ARPA-E. The exercise was based on goals set by the department’s BEEST program for electric vehicle batteries, aiming to develop technology allowing electric vehicles to travel 300 miles on a single charge. These circular map experiments represent what might be found in the glove box of a future driver’s electric vehicle. Artifacts like this might alter our driving behaviors, travels choices, or even our perceptions of geography.
Also from this residency, the Electricity Source Meter and Energy Tour projects.
On the Future Tense Slate blog, Maria Popova writes, "The past has a long history of imagining the future, and humanity has an equally long history of mapping time. Several months ago, I shared a link to a timeline of future events as predicted by famous novels. Italian information visualization designer Giorgia Lupi saw it on Twitter and was inspired to create an ambitious visual version for La Lettura, the Sunday literary supplement of Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera, with her design team at Accurat."
This surreal visualization created by NYC’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability has a strange way of showing how the city would look if carbon was visible and stayed in a giant pile on top of the city. It also visualizes the scenario as if no carbon had been present until this point. Despite these data visualization peculiarities, there’s something curious about the piece.
Elsewhere, a ‘living museum’ in Greensboro, NC was given a grant through the Federal Reinvestment and Recovery Act to install a solar PV array on their roof, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts. In order to use the array as an educational tool as well as an energy source, Elsewhere asked me to serve as a ‘Solar Fellow,’ to devise a system allowing the public to experience the solar array.
As I met members of the local community and chatted about solar energy, I made an observation that guided the project. Low income Americans generally don’t have access to distributed photovoltaic solar energy, due to the virtually prohibitive up front equipment and installation costs, not to mention the luxury of owning the roof atop your home. On the other hand, in many developing countries, PV solar arrays are shared by villages or small groups to distribute the costs. Admittedly, families in developing nations are using a fraction of the energy that an American family uses. What are the benefits of instating a shared solar station in a US city, if satiating energy needs is not the main goal?
I proposed to set up an experimental Solar Energy Commons in Elsewhere’s facade, an opportunity for community members to use some of the energy from Elsewhere’s grid. Like other commons throughout history, basic guidelines for use were necessary to keep the Energy Commons functional. After discussing with artists and curators at Elsewhere, we decided to set a provision that all use of the Energy Commons should in some way benefit the community. (This is a subjective guideline to be sure, but suitable for an experiment.)
The Energy Commons unit is a hatch mounted in a rebuilt door, which opens to reveal a singular power outlet, a small table and a canopy. A pamphlet (currently in development) explains the experiment and guidelines to interested visitors, and solicits responses to the idea. In the opening weeks, locals used the Solar Commons to bring people together for activities such as dance tutorials and impromptu karaoke sessions. Through these experimental interactions with solar energy, we hope to capture peoples’ perceptions on solar energy and what it means to share energy in a developed nation.