Lighting 2015

Energy Efficiency Time Machine: Exploring Technology Today and Tomorrow

By Megan Porter

Business owners have always been fascinated by the future. Perhaps that's because we can sense the potential it holds for evolutionary change. Or it may simply be that the future is an intriguing mystery that only time can solve.

But what if we didn't have to wait? What if we could get a glimpse into tomorrow right now?

That's the journey we're about to take in our virtual energy efficiency time machine. It promises to be a very dynamic trip, because the technology of tomorrow has the ability to revolutionize the way small and medium-sized businesses use and conserve energy.

Before we get started, let's not forget about the future that's here right now. Highly advanced energy efficiency technology is actually working for many California businesses today. They are saving energy, controlling costs and using advanced technologies right now.

So let's use our time machine journey to show us technology today and tomorrow and energy efficiency ideas that makes sense now and for the future.

Our journey will take us to three areas that have a great impact on the energy use of California businesses. We'll see the present and future of solar energy, heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) technology, and wind power. Along the way, we'll pick up some smart energy saving tips that businesses can use right now and learn more about the present and future benefits of energy efficiency.


TODAY: Solar water heating
The future potential of solar water heating is untapped, but this advanced technology is already paying dividends for California businesses. That's because it's an affordable and effective way to supplement existing, conventional water heating systems. Solar water heating systems allow small and medium-sized businesses to reduce monthly energy costs and protect against expenses associated with natural gas shortages and price increases. Here's the first of our forward-thinking energy saving tips: On average, if you install a solar water heater, your cost to heat water can be reduced by 50 to 80 percent.1 In addition, solar water heating systems provide long-term dividends. They are highly reliable, lasting up to 25 years and require very little maintenance to function properly.

TOMORROW: Solar everything
Imagine a day where everyone comes to a meeting with solar keyboards and laptops. That future is not far away as technology continues to advance. But it's just the beginning of our solar powered sojourn. There are also solar greenhouses in the research and development stage that that produce both food and energy. Another unexpected advancement will be solar ATMs. But the most impressive technology is actually the solar cells that exist inside. New solar cells are being developed that are only 10% as thick as standard cells, which unlock the possibility for solar technology to be used in many more applications. Even more exciting is the fact that these new solar cells consume an estimated 100 times less silicon to produce the same amount of electricity compared to standard cells.2


TODAY: High efficiency HVAC products
Businesses that need new HVAC equipment should consider their future costs and remember this energy saving tip: ENERGY STAR®-qualified commercial HVAC products can save a business approximately $1.70 per square foot over the life of the equipment. What does that mean for an average business? Here's an example: A 12,000-square-foot building using an ENERGY STAR-qualified HVAC product could save more than $21,000 over its lifetime and prevent more than 40,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.3 Another one of our forward-thinking energy saving tips is to install programmable thermostats. It's usually not necessary for businesses to operate heating or cooling 24 hours a day. Programmable thermostats allow you to automate your HVAC system and save energy when buildings are unoccupied. That's one of the benefits of energy efficiency: achieving significant savings for taking a simple step.

TOMORROW: New ways to insulate
Energy efficient equipment isn't the only way to keep heating and cooling costs down. Future technology advancements promise better and lighter insulation for buildings. A better insulated facility will help optimize the effectiveness of the HVAC system while reducing the energy load required for heating and cooling. Another exciting possibility is the development of extra reflective paint coatings. These coatings could reflect more of the sun's heat and help to reduce cooling demands on the HVAC system.4


TODAY: Wind turbines
Wind power certainly isn't a new technology. However, its growth has created some futuristic landscapes. In California, three primary regions account for nearly 95 percent of all commercial wind power generation in the state and approximately 11 percent of the world's wind-generated electricity.5 These highly productive wind farms are in the Altamont, Tehachapi and San Gorgonio regions.

TOMORROW: Flying wind farms
At first, that might seem like a typo. The search for optimal wind farm locations has ranged from farm fields to high mountain ridges to the open ocean. But NASA is actually investigating wind power from the sky above. The organization is considering kite-like airborne turbines spinning at high altitudes. These flying wind farms would transmit power via nanotube cable tethers.6

Now that we've explored the technology of today and the potential of tomorrow, it's time to put some energy saving tips into practice. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) offers energy efficient rebates that can help put today's technology to work for California businesses.

But we're not done with our energy saving tips. Because many California businesses are exploring lighting controls and occupancy sensors as a mechanism to reduce energy usage. PG&E has developed a free guide to aid businesses in implementing and capitalizing on the many benefits of lighting controls. Download "PG&E's Guide to Lighting Controls and Occupancy Sensors" today.

Referenced in Article:

  1. Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  2. Alternative Energy News
  4. Fierce Energy
  5. California Energy Commission
  6. Alternative Energy News

See the new energy technologies for businesses in the energy efficiency time machine:
  • SMB Blog Author
    Megan Porter
    Senior Program Marketing Manager at PG&E, is a recognized leader in solutions marketing for small and medium-sized businesses. Megan uses her proven and practical expertise to bring energy efficiency education to businesses in every industry. In this vital role, she develops and oversees highly successful initiatives that result in the adoption of more efficient long-term energy management behaviors.

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