Category: Green

Panasonic shows off solar-powered wireless charging table

Engadget: Why settle for a simple solar-powered table when you can have a table that’s solar-powered and a wireless charger? While you can’t get one just yet, Panasonic will apparently be selling this stylish bit of tech-laden furniture by the end of this year or early next year (in Japan, at least), which will let you charge your Qi-compliant devices simply by placing them on the table. It’ll also be supplying the requisite battery packs for some of its phones at the same time, though there’s few other specifics to be had at the moment. Of course, even if it does actually hit the market it’ll still no doubt be out or reach for most — there is always the DIY route for particularly industrious individuals out there, though.

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Panasonic Will Invest $1 Billion in ‘Green Home’ Plan

Bloomberg: Panasonic Corp., the world’s biggest plasma-TV maker, will invest $1 billion by 2012 in a plan to make its principal business equipping homes and buildings with solar power and energy-saving technologies, the president said.The move focuses on solar-panel and energy-storage technology that Panasonic will gain from its purchase of Sanyo Electric Co., coupled with systems that Panasonic has invented, President Fumio Ohtsubo said yesterday in a New York interview.

Panasonic is shifting focus as growth slows in its main consumer-electronics and appliances businesses, where it competes against Samsung Electronics Co. The change coincides with a worldwide move toward more energy-efficient technologies, a goal that’s leading more than 190 countries to meet in Copenhagen next week to discuss cutting greenhouse-gas emissions.

“This is what Panasonic has to do,” said Osamu Hirose, an analyst at Tokai Tokyo Securities with an “above average” rating on the stock. “Wherever you look, consumers in developed and developing markets are interested in environmental products.”

The company hasn’t determined how much the energy- management systems will cost or how they will be distributed, Ohtsubo, 64, said. The Osaka, Japan-based company also doesn’t know what percentage of its overall sales can come from the new business by the end of its current medium-term business plan in 2012, he said.

‘Fighting Ring’

“Our growth is not enough compared to Samsung,” Ohtsubo said. “So we want to change our fighting ring from our current categories to a different field.”

The new technology will let consumers monitor their own electricity use and display the data on television sets, Ohtsubo said. The system will be able to connect and monitor all of the appliances in a house, and the solar panels may produce enough clean power to offset any carbon dioxide created from other power the appliances use, he said.

“Our products in consumer electronics and our appliances will benefit from the new core business” as people buy more energy-efficient gear, Ohtsubo said. “The future is not 20 to 30 years out. Within two to three years, Panasonic can realize this kind of concept.”

He said consumers can achieve energy savings of 30 percent to 50 percent with the new technology.

Shares Rose

Panasonic rose 1.9 percent to close at 1,156 yen on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, compared with a 0.4 percent decline by the benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average. The company’s stock has advanced 3.9 percent this year.

The new plan is a departure from focusing on selling plasma TVs, which are less energy-efficient than other television models.

Most of Panasonic’s plasma TVs with 42-inch screens that display full high-definition images consume at least 173 watts, higher than the 146 watts used by comparable LCD TVs, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star TV product list.

Panasonic is offering to buy control of Sanyo, the world’s largest maker of rechargeable batteries, for 403 billion yen ($4.6 billion) to boost its share of the battery market and gain access to Sanyo’s solar-cell technology.

The company also is entering the market for lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars, Ohtsubo said.

Panasonic, which generated 47 percent of its revenue overseas in the past fiscal year, said last year that it aims to raise that share to 60 percent, mostly by boosting sales in emerging markets.

Narrowed Loss

Panasonic narrowed its full-year loss forecast in October by 28 percent to 140 billion yen, citing cost reductions. The company, which also raised its operating profit forecast for the year to 120 billion yen from 75 billion yen, posted a net loss of 379 billion yen in the year ended March 31.

The company, which cut 29,155 jobs in the 12 months ended Sept. 30, may pare more than 300 billion yen in costs this fiscal year, compared with its original estimate of 260 billion yen, Chief Financial Officer Makoto Uenoyama said Oct. 30.

Ohtsubo said that Panasonic will cut costs at Sanyo after the transaction closes, though he didn’t say whether the moves would involve more job reductions.

Samsung, the Suwon, South Korea-based company that’s Asia’s biggest maker of chips, flat screens and mobile phones, said third-quarter profit tripled to a record 3.72 trillion won ($3.2 billion) on rising demand for consumer electronics and appliances.

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California approves television efficiency legislation

Electronista: The California Energy Commission has approved a new set of efficiency standards aimed at regulating televisions sold in the state, according to CNET News.

The rules apply to displays 58-inches or smaller, requiring retailers to stock TVs with 33 percent less energy consumption by 2011.

The terms increase once again for 2013, with mandatory reductions in consumption by an average of 49 percent.

The Commission claims the mandate will reduce electricity costs by up to $8.1 billion. The group also expects the rules to eliminate the need for building a natural gas power plant of 615 MW capacity.

The Consumer Electronics Association has opposed the bill, arguing that the regulations will effectively kill the plasma TV market in California.

The Commission, however, claims that CNET and Energy Star test data shows that plasma screens utilizing new phosphors with enhanced gas mixtures will be able to meet the 2011 and 2013 standards, especially if the technology is paired with automatic brightness control.

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Greenpeace lauds Apple, HP in new electronics rankings

Electronista: Activist group Greenpeace has released a new edition of its Guide to Greener Electronics, which ranks major high-tech corporations in terms of their alleged environmental friendliness.

Among the companies favored by Greenpeace’s press efforts is Apple, which the group notes recently disclosed its carbon emissions.

Apple has risen in rankings from 11th to 9th, aided not by the disclosure but by being the “most progressive” computer maker in terms of removing product toxins.

Greenpeace comments that Apple’s emissions tracking will only affect the next guide, and that the company must actually act on reducing carbon levels.

Greenpeace Guide to Green Electronics

Despite holding onto 14th place, HP has been commended for the ProBook 5310m, which is said to be the company’s first PC to eliminate PVC and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from everything but the power supply and cabling.

Dell and Lenovo are criticized for postponing toxic phase-outs indefinitely, with the latter shifting in rank to second-last, ahead of Nintendo but below Fujitsu.

LG has slipped in position from 4th to 11th, as a result of dropping plans to eliminate PVC and BFRs from all products by the end of 2010.

Philips has jumped from 7th to 4th through work on recycling policies; Sony is up from 12th to 8th due to changes in waste and chemical handling. Dominating the guide this period is Nokia, followed by Samsung and Sony Ericsson.

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TV calibration: good for picture quality and the environment, says THX

EngadgetHD: The wizened ones at THX have added yet another reason to actually spend some time calibrating your TV — energy savings.

Videophiles have long known that moving out of “torch mode” is good for the electric bill, but we’re hoping that putting the THX logo behind the message will help move better picture quality to the mainstream. Y

ou know, because not everyone knows that TVs aren’t supposed to pull double duty as tanning lamps and space heaters. For those people, maybe the 15 – 50-percent energy savings will get them to check out the THX calibration screens.

Yearly electricity savings of about $50 (€35) aren’t enough to offset a professional calibration, but if you’re going to spend $1,000 (€699) on a TV, it’s just silly to not spend 15-minutes to get things dialed in better than the out of the box settings.

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Samsung to invest in green future

BBC: The giant South Korean company Samsung Electronics has said it will invest more than $4bn (£2.4bn) to cut emissions from its plants.

The company also said it wants to develop more energy-efficient products. It said it hoped that by the year 2013, the greenhouse gas emissions from its manufacturing facilities will be reduced by 50%.

It also wants to develop its range of more energy-efficient products, such as new refrigerators and air conditioners.

The company’s green initiative follows the South Korean government’s plan to pursue an environmentally friendly agenda. South Korea is the world’s tenth biggest producer of greenhouse gases and has vowed to spend $84 bn over the next five years on improving energy efficiency and reducing pollution. A

nalysts believe that combined efforts between the public and private sectors would help boost economic growth as well as reducing greenhouse gases.

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Zero standby power just around the corner

TechOn!: Imagine a chip that waits in Off mode for an input, that instantly turns on the power for processing when an input is detected, and then turns itself off again.

An integrated circuit (IC) technology that might make possible this type of “normally-off” equipment will enter practical use in 2009: zero-standby-dissipation chips, achieved by making the entire chip, including logic, nonvolatile.

As environment-friendly equipment becomes ever more important, this may be the trump card in slashing power consumption.

The industry is switching into high gear in pursuit of zero-standby-dissipation IC technology. Rohm Co Ltd of Japan, at the forefront of developments, prototyped a microprocessor in 2008 and is now designing custom chips for a number of equipment manufacturers.

With its volume production line in Kyoto completed in May/June 2009, Rohm will begin shipping custom ICs in the second half of the year.

“Equipment using the new chips may appear before the end 2009,” according to a source at the company. NEC Corp of Japan, hot on Rohm’s heels, has developed a technology that runs chips even faster, and completed verification of a test chip in 2008.

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New Greenpeace guide lauds Apple, attacks PC makers

Electronista: Large PC builders are dragging their feet when it comes to environmental promises, claims Greenpeace. The activist group has once again updated its Guide to Greener Electronics, which assigns relative rankings to major high-tech corporations.

Leading the new rankings are Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson, whereas the bottom is occupied by console maker Nintendo. Sony itself has fallen precipitously from 5th to 12th place, having lost progress on recycling.

The Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics

A new development is the assignment of “penalty points” to major PC builders, including HP, Dell and Lenovo. The companies have delayed plans to strip PVC and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from computers, Greenpeace says, and in the case of HP, none of its current systems have reduced toxicity.

The chemicals are not an immediate danger, but can have long-term impact, especially on the people and wildlife near dumpsites in Asia and Africa, where toxins can accumulate in larger quantities.

Greenpeace meanwhile continues to praise Apple, which it says has worked hard to ensure Macs are nearly free of PVC, and entirely free of BFRs. It is “ridiculous” that companies like Dell are challenging Apple advertising, Greenpeace claims, when the latter is performing so well next to its rivals.

The Better Business Bureau has however recommended that Apple stop calling MacBooks the most environmentally-friendly notebooks on the market.


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Mobile phone companies agree on universal charger for EU

TechDigest: It will be mini-USB and should go some way to reducing the absurd number of chargers that end up in landfills every year. The 10 companies who control 90% of the European phone market have signed a deal which will see mobile phone chargers become universal by 2010.

The group, which includes Apple, Sony Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, LG and NEC, has agreed to a harmonisation that will see mobile phones charged by mini-USB adaptors.

The move is not only good for people who have drawers full of various charges – it’s great news for the environment too. Every year there are 185million phones sold in the EU and therefore around 185million chargers as well. The majority of these chargers become useless after upgrading to a new phone – even, in some cases, if users stay with the same brand.

The idea is that, after an unspecified time following the release of the universal charger, chargers and phones will be sold separately. The move only applies to smartphones and is only for the EU at the moment. Hopefully, the rest of the world will follow suit soon after. They should do – not only would it save them money because they won’t have to manufacture and package chargers for every phone they sell (I can’t see them reducing the price of phones just because it ships without a charger) it will also be good for their green-credentials.

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Sharp’s green approach to Blu-ray

EngadgetHD: The UK is getting its own taste of Sharp provided BD-Live Blu-ray playing tech with the BD-HP22H, complete with DTS-HD MA, Dolby TrueHD and 1080p24 support.

Still, to get buyers to come up with the £199.99 (€233) pricetag, its touting a 0.7W/standby 20W/playing energy rating.

Buyers should be able to decide if that’s worth a few quid later on this month.

Sharp BD-HP22H

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The eco-switch saves energy – including your own

Gizmag: We all know we should turn off appliances at the wall to reduce fire risk as well as our carbon emissions, but the truth is most of us can’t be bothered or think to flick the switch. The eco-switch could be the answer: it’s a simple and inexpensive energy-saving device that lets you relocate the power point switch to a more convenient spot where you can turn multiple appliances on and off – with the flick of a single switch.

There’s little more to the eco-switch than simply plugging appliances into it, then plugging the eco-switch into the wall outlet. When the eco-switch is turned on, so are the appliances. When the eco-switch is turned off, your appliances are off too.

According to the switch’s makers, the reduction in standby power can save users more than US$80 a year and prevent 1.5 tons in greenhouse gas emissions – to say nothing of the energy saved moving from power point to power point, turning off switches. The eco-switch is a finalist for the 2009 Next Big Thing award and is undergoing electrical safety testing.

Eco-switch’s developers are inviting the public to provide ideas on how the eco-switch can save energy. Here’s one: a woman wrote in saying she would have to get out of bed in the cold, go around to her husband’s side of the bed when he fell asleep and turn off his reading lamp. With the eco-switch, she saw a chance to avoid it by taking charge of all the switches in the bedroom.

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UK ‘worst electrical recycler’

BBC: A study on recycling suggests Britons are the worst in Europe when it comes to recycling electrical equipment.

Computer manufacturer Dell found that fewer than half of UK residents regularly recycled old hardware, compared with more than 80% of Germans.

Within the UK, the Welsh are the worst when it comes to recycling technology; almost 20% have never done so. It is thought the UK creates enough electrical waste each year to fill Wembley Stadium six times over.

Environmental consultant Tony Juniper said that lack of awareness was a serious issue.

“Governments in every country need to make the disposal of old electrical equipment as accessible and commonplace as recycling old paper, plastics and glass,” said the former Friends of the Earth director.

In early May, mobile operator 02 looked at what electrical equipment was inside a typical home. It found that there was an average of 2.4 TVs, 1.6 computers, 2.4 games consoles, 3 mobile phones, and 2.2 MP3 players.

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