Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Do-Not-Call registry to launch January 2, 2014 in Singapore

Do you occasionally receive calls from individual or organisation purportedly representing a bank where you keep your account? I do.

On many occasions these individuals introduced themselves as representatives of Standard Chartered Bank, implying that they have the blessing of the bank to contact me to market of their products and services. I do not want this and I don't wish to be contacted by a telemarketer for insurance products.

In Singapore, a national Do-Not-Call (DNC) registry will be officially launched on January 2 next year. What this mean is that beginning next year, consumers wanting to opt out of telemarketing calls can register with a watchdog called PDPC and ensure their rights are protected.

Capture from my copy of The Straits Times, December 26, 2013.

Consumers can register to avoid getting unwanted calls, SMS and fax message. Telemarketers found to be guilty of defying the registry rules risk a maximum S$10,000 (RM25,975) fine.

I wish I could do that in Malaysia.

Monday, December 30, 2013

White tigers at Singapore Zoo

Your Singapore trip is not complete without a visit to the national zoo. So, last week we took sometime to spend a day at the popular tourist attraction in Singapore. According to estimate, over 1.6 million people visit the zoo each year.

We learnt during the tram ride that this zoo houses the largest captive colony of orangutan in the world. Our Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation centre in Sandakan may be bigger in terms of number of animal as well as land area but our orangutans are not keep in captivity.

This zoo is very well-kept and is easy to get around.

Note: All pictures were captured with smartphone cam, so, pardon the quality.

Wud be good for safari ride but this one is just for show. Not for rent.

You can purchase your entrance ticket to include tram ride. It helps a lot

On another day, you'll see these orangutan doing their 'Tarzan' swing

You can get pretty close to the giraffes

Inuka the polar bear during a show

Feeding the white tigers is one of the highlights at Singapore Zoo

Quite a crowd at the Splash Safari Show

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Top 10 best-selling cars in Singapore (2013)

I was reading my copy of The Straits Times made available to hotel guests during our stay at Festive Hotel Singapore and this caught my attention - for the top 5 best-selling brands, the rank was dominated by European cars, with one Japanese brand in the mix.

3,506 Mercedes cars were sold in Singapore as at end-November 2013. Snapshot: The Stratis Times, December 24

Of the 10 favourite brands in The Lion City, one Korean car maker (Hyundai) made it to the list. Sorry Malaysia, your brands are nowhere in sight here. I'm not questioning why; I'm just reflecting on the popularity of the national cars outside of their country of origin.

To put things into perspective, popular models in Singapore such as BMW 3-series and Mercedes C-class are (for examples) sold at:

BMW 328i Luxury (A) Sedan - S$242,800 (with COE)
Mercedes-Benz C-Class C200 BlueEfficiency 7G-Tronic - S$237,888 (with COE)
[Reference: Oneshift]

In Malaysia similar cars would cost:
BMW 328i Luxury (A) Sedan - RM293,800
Mercedes-Benz C-Class C200 CGI BlueEFFICIENCY 7G-Tronic - RM262,888
[Reference: Cycle & Carriage]

Top 10 best-selling brands in Singapore (Jan-Nov 2013):

Mercedes-Benz - 3,506
BMW - 3,295
Toyota - 3,037
Volkswagen - 2,729
Audi - 1,593
Volvo - 873
Mazda - 595
Nissan - 545
Jaguar - 457
Hyundai - 444
Proton & Perodua?           -       dream on?

As an example, Proton Preve 1.6 CFE is selling at S$116,000 ( total base price of S$58,000).
Kia Forte K3 1.6 (A) 2013 is selling at S$133,999 (total base price of S$67,000).

From every angle you look at it, Proton and Perodua will take a back seat in terms of number of cars sold in the rich city state. It's the similar case in Brunei.

TheGreenMechanics: While gaining popularity at home, there's still much to be desired of the homegrown car brands with regards to competitiveness and quality in general. Prices are still very high for Malaysian standard of living.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013 from The Green Mechanics

Merry Christmas from The Lion City.
Let us make peace with each other,
Let us make peace with the past,
Let us march forward to the future,
With God's grace.

©The Green Mechanics,
Sentosa Island,
25th December 2013,

"...And Happy New Year 2014"

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

SEDA responded to concerns raised on the revised 1.6% surcharge

This is an excerpt of the press statement by Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) Malaysia in respond to the concerns raised by YB Mr. Lim Guan Eng, the Chief Minister of Penang and YB Dr Ong Kian Ming, a Member of Parliament for Serdang, on the achievements by SEDA Malaysia to justify the revision of the surcharge on electricity bills for renewable energy (RE) fund from 1.0% to 1.6%.

Beginning January 1 next year, consumers in Peninsula Malaysia, Sabah and Labuan will be levied with 1.6% surcharge in their electricity bills.

Effective date of the revised rate

The revised surcharge is effective from 1st January 2014 and affects electricity consumers of Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) and Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB); however domestic consumers with 300 kWh and less of electricity usage per month are exempted from such contribution.

Achievement and milestones

According to the CEO of SEDA Malaysia Datin Badriyah Abdul Malek, since the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) mechanism was implemented on the 1st December 2011, 2,686 applications have been approved out of which 89.1% of the applications were for solar photovoltaic (PV) for the individuals, 8.9% for solar PV for non-individuals and 2% collectively for biomass, biogas, and small hydro.

SEDA Malaysia has approved RE capacity of 482 MW (expected to achieve commercial operation by 2015), comprising:

Solar PV      - 40.2%
Biomass      - 27.7%
Small hydro  - 27.2%
Biogas         - 4.9%

Under the previous Small Renewable Energy Power (SREP) programme which was launched on 11th May 2001, only 61.2 MW of RE capacity was connected to the grid as at the end of 2010. Hence, the FiT mechanism which has been operational for only 2 years has achieved more RE capacity than the previous SREP which spanned nearly a decade.


By 2014, the projected job creation for the RE industry under the FiT programme is 11,412 whilst the total investment on the approved RE capacity is estimated to be RM 7.3 billion. Citing the solar PV industry as an example, in 2006, there were only 8 PV service providers in the country providing grid connected PV services. Today, more than 100 PV service providers have emerged in Peninsular Malaysia alone. With the opening of the FiT to Sabah and FT Labuan, SEDA expects the solar PV service providers to grow in numbers in the coming years.

The RE targets meted out under the National RE Policy and Action Plan was on the basis of collection of 2% surcharge imposed on electricity bills. SEDA said that for the past 2 years, only 1% surcharge was collected and without a revision of the surcharge, the RE industry and market growth in the country under the FiT will come to a grinding halt.

The Green Mechanics' 2 cents:

So, the RE targets in the National RE Policy was based on collection of 2% surcharge imposed on electricity bills? Why then the consumers alone are made to shoulder the burden? I have said my piece of mind before and I will say it again:-

The current 1% surcharge is correct and sufficient. The government just need to top it up with another 1% to make the endeavour a joint participation by both the government and the public. If SEDA revise the rate to 1.6%, the government should match it with 1.6%.

Furthermore, SEDA was not transparent (or perhaps overlooked) in giving out facts and figures in its press statement, especially the revolving fund size and the the projected amount it needed to keep the RE industry going. If I was asked to donate to certain organisation, I'd need to know where my money is going, and how much money is already in the organisation's coffer.

Would you not ask questions if your brother asks for certain amount of money, even if you could afford it?

Happy Holiday from RWS

If 2013 has been good to you, you should take sometime and break free from what you have been doing all year long. Take sometime to relax and enjoy away from your office.

Few wishes for this year's Holiday:-

Going up in the sky

Dip a leg and hand into the Lake of Dreams and realise my dreams

Ride the reindeer

Happy Holiday everyone!
From Resort World Sentosa, Singapore

Monday, December 23, 2013

Turning carbon dioxide into electricity

Could carbon dioxide be turned into electricity? Factory smokestacks photo by Curt Carnemark/ Worldbank

This is a great idea, and it quickly reminds you of the geothermal plant currently under construction in the East Coast of Sabah.

Researchers are developing a new kind of geothermal power plant that will lock away unwanted carbon dioxide (CO2) underground—and use it as a tool to boost electric power generation by at least 10 times compared to existing geothermal energy approaches.

The technology to implement this design already exists in different industries, so the researchers are optimistic that their new approach could expand the use of geothermal energy in the U.S. far beyond the handful of states that can take advantage of it now.

The new power plant design resembles a cross between a typical geothermal power plant and the Large Hadron Collider: It features a series of concentric rings of horizontal wells deep underground.

Inside those rings, CO2, nitrogen and water circulate separately to draw heat from below ground up to the surface, where the heat can be used to turn turbines and generate electricity.

The design contrasts with conventional geothermal plants, explained study co-author Jeffrey Bielicki, assistant professor of energy policy in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering and the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University.

"Typical geothermal power plants tap into hot water that is deep under ground, pull the heat off the hot water, use that heat to generate electricity, and then return the cooler water back to the deep subsurface. Here the water is partly replaced with CO2 or another fluid—or a combination of fluids," he said.

CO2 extracts heat more efficiently than water, he added.

This approach—using concentric rings that circulate multiple fluids—builds upon the idea to use CO2originally developed by Martin Saar and others at the University of Minnesota, and can be at least twice as efficient as conventional geothermal approaches, according to computer simulations.

"When we began to develop the idea to use CO2 to produce geothermal energy, we wanted to find a way to make CO2 storage cost-effective while expanding the use of geothermal energy," said Jimmy Randolph, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Minnesota.

"We hope that we can expand the reach of geothermal energy in the United States to include most states west of the Mississippi River," Bielicki said.

The current research team includes Ohio State, the University of Minnesota and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where geoscientist Tom Buscheck came up with the idea to add nitrogen to the mix.

"What makes this concept transformational is that we can deliver renewable energy to customers when it is needed, rather than when the wind happens to be blowing, or when spring thaw causes the greatest runoff," Buscheck said.

Source: PHYS.ORG

Saturday, December 21, 2013

50W Solar PV system for the rural folks

Four community learning centres (or pre-schools) in the rural areas of Sabah have benefitted from a noble effort of several philanthropists.

The beneficiaries of the initial 4 sets of solar power system are community learning centres in Tenom, Tongod and Paitan. It is very encouraging to see synergy of effort from various NGOs to help those deprived of the basic necessity - power supply.

The 50W solar photovoltaic systems. Source: DE, Dec 17.

Parties involved in the project:

Inner Wheel Club of Kota Kinabalu
: Fund raising to purchase and install the systems
Penampang Renewable Energy S/B : Design and supply (at cost)
Centre for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology (CREATE) : Training provider, especially on renewable energy, for rural youths
Tonibung : Installation of the solar PV systems at no cost, including training on their operations and maintenance.

The solar PV systems

Each system, designed and supplied by Penampang Renewable Energy S/B, consist of the followings (I hope the reporting by Daily Express is accurate):
  • 50-Watt solar panel
  • Solar power pack, c/w charge controller, 12V USB, 5V USB
  • 70Ah battery
  • 300W inverter
  • LED lamps

* The packs are expandable for bigger load if required, which is really good as the folks surely would need more power in the near future. This is something like a modular design where people could donate an 'expansion' or two and they just add up to the existing one.

TheGreenMechanics: As an alternative, there is a similar set on sale which I think is comparable to the above system. I saw one at City Mall with almost similar features - solar power pack with solar panel, USB outlets, 70Ah battery c/w 4 units of 3W LED bulbs. The system is marketed at RM550.00 minus the inverter. A separate 300W quasi-sine wave inverter will cost around RM250 to RM300.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Philippines closes in on 1 GW solar PV pipeline

Back in April this year, a PV research company, NPD Solarbuzz noted that emerging PV markets such as Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan are expected to lead the way in the photovoltaic demand.

The five nations will account for 50% of the more than 3 GW cumulative demand in Asia Pacific and Central Asia between 2013 and 2017.

Specifically, Thailand is anticipated to become the region’s largest photovoltaic market, while Indonesia is forecast to rank second by 2017 supported by its impending FiTs.

But wait, the Philippines is coming strongly with its latest announcement of cumulative approved PV projects which is moving close to 1 GW this month.

PV-Magazine reported that the country’s Department of Energy (DoE) is stepping up efforts to triple the nation’s renewable energy capacity by 2030. Currently, the Philippines has a renewable energy capacity of 5.6 GW and by 2030, the country hopes to reach a target of 16 GW.

Ilocos Norte is known for its breeze and surfing; no wonder it is also the place for one of Philippines' wind farms. Next, a 20 MW solar PV project will start here in January 2014. Photo credit: Moving Forward

Department of Energy has awarded service contracts for a total of 38 PV projects in the Philippines this year, taking the country’s PV pipeline to 846.2 MW, of which 844.7 MW (34 of the projects) are grid-connected projects.

Belgium’s Enfinity renewable energy company, via its local Philippines subsidy Enfinity Philippines, has invested close to $600 million to secure contracts for 18 of the 34 approved projects, including three or four that will begin construction in early 2014.

"Next year, three to four PV projects in Philippines should go into construction, but we might move faster than that. The remainder of the company’s planned 18 solar projects will be completed in the next couple of years."
 - Dennis Ibarra, Enfinity Philippines president

Another foreign industry player in the Philippines, South Korea’s Mirae Asia Energy Corp. will begin construction on a 20 MW solar plant in the Ilocos Norte region of the Philippines in January next year. In July, Mirae Asia Energy Corp. secured a certificate for the project from the DoE, and will invest $50 million in the 60-hectare project.

TheGreenMechanics' two cents:

I remember, last month, our Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water (Dr. Maximus Ongkili) said that Malaysia is one of the earliest nations in the 10-member Asean regional grouping to implement the FiT mechanism to promote and increase renewable energy.

From the available data and announcements, we seem to be at the tail end of several emerging nations in Asean group. Perhaps we are not as aggressive as Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia. Even Singapore is coming in very strongly in PV installation. Just a personal thought.

Source: pv-magazine

ASB unitholders to get 7.70 sen dividend and 1.00 sen bonus in 2013

With special privilege given to ASB unit holders - most of which are Bumis - PNB gives out considerably high return of investment year in year out.

This year Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB) unitholders will receive a dividend of 7.70 sen per unit for the financial year ending Dec 31, 2013 compared with 7.75 sen last year. Bonus unit is also lower at 1.0 sen per unit compared to 1.15 sen last year.

ASB's historical dividend + bonus payout:

2007 - 8.00 + 1.00 = 9.00
2008 - 7.00 + 1.75 = 8.75
2009 - 7.30 + 1.25 = 8.55
2010 - 7.50 + 1.25 = 8.75
2011 - 7.65 + 1.15 = 8.80
2012 - 7.75 + 1.15 = 8.90
2013 - 7.70 + 1.00 = 8.70

19 December 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: Amanah Saham Nasional Berhad (ASNB), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) has announced an income distribution of 7.70 sen per unit and a bonus of 1.00 sen per unit for Skim Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB) for the financial year ended 31 December 2013.

The income distribution portion will involve a total payout of RM9.38 billion by ASNB, an increase of 17.4% compared to the RM7.99 billion paid out last year.

The bonus portion will involve a total payout of RM706.88 million by PNB, an increase of 3.84% compared to the RM680.73 million paid out last year PNB Chairman, Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid said, the payment will benefit 8.26 million unit holders which currently hold a total of 127.2 billion units of ASB.

Total gross income of ASB on 31 December 2013 is estimated at RM9.92 billion. Dividend income from investee companies contributed RM4.41 billion or 44.5% of the gross income. Meanwhile, profit from the sale of shares contributed RM4 billion or 40.3% of the gross income and the balance of RM1.51 billion or 15.2% derived from other incomes.

The income distribution and bonus will be automatically credited into the respective unit holders’ accounts. Unit holders will be able to update their accounts beginning 2 January 2014.

All transactions for ASB at ASNB head office, ASNB branch offices and agents would be suspended beginning 22 December 2013 until 1 January 2014, to facilitate the calculation of income distribution and bonus.

-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  g - h  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -

TheGreenMechanics: Good news is that it is consistently higher than other unit trusts; bad news is that they reduce it from last year.

The PNB chairman said ASB could have actually declared a dividend of 10.54 sen per unit, but they didn't. I wonder if the justification for not declaring a higher dividend is fair.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Are Google and Apple fleecing customers with tablet storage?

I was shopping for a micro SD card the other day and found at Popular Bookstore, Kota Kinabalu that a 32GB (Class 10) card is selling for RM99 (less than £19).

Read on to find out why you should be feeling like you're being hard done by, when choosing a tablet with storage size of between 16GB and 32GB or higher.

What's the big deal about upgrading your tablet's storage size? Image: CWM

Gadget makers accused of fleecing customers

Gadget makers including Apple and Google have been accused of ripping off customers with overpriced tablet storage upgrades.

Choosing between tablet models typically means deciding whether you want mobile data or not, and how much internal storage you want. However, Which? reports that consumers are getting a rough deal when it comes to paying more for higher storage capacities.

For example, the entry-level iPad Air costs £399 for 16GB (RM1,599 in Malaysia) and you'll have to pay an extra £80 to double this to 32GB. The 32GB iPad Air with WiFi is selling at RM1,929 in Malaysia. There's no memory card slot for adding more, like many other tablets, so picking the right one is important.

Which? claims that the memory upgrade only costs Apple £6 making the upgrade a mark-up of 1,267 percent.

"16GB of Flash memory is mind-numbingly cheap now. As a general rule, for manufacturers like ourselves, Flash costs less than 40p per GB, so for companies to charge so much for an extra 16GB seems scandalous." -
Ben Miles from PC maker Chillblast.

Google and Amazon charge £70 and £40 for the same upgrade for their Nexus 10 and Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 respectively. The mark-ups aren't as bad when compared to Apple but still represent a big jump compared to the market price for memory.

"With tablets in demand this Christmas, buyers will be shocked to discover what a raw deal they're getting on built-in memory. If you want the best value storage, then buy a tablet with a SD or microSD slot and add a memory card for a fraction of the cost." - Richard Headland, editor at Which?

The other issue with storage is the fact that users don't get the advertised amount. This blew up significantly with the Samsung Galaxy S4 which touted 16GB of storage but less than half was available to the user due to the space taken up by the operating system and pre-loaded apps and software features.

Source: Computerworld Malaysia

TheGreenMechanics: I feel like I am being hard done by! Really.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

UK ratifies new waste regulations on PV recycling

Someone asked if solar PV is really green, considering the amount of energy to manufacture the panels and the amount of effort required for the disposal of damaged/old ones. It's a good question but that's for the analysts to work it out.

While we let our self get carried away by the NKEA of achieving certain commendable target of Renewable Energy in the national energy generation mix, let's not forget about the electrical and electronic waste we are bound to be creating.

Broken and damaged PV panels - how are we going to dispose them of?

U.K. to introduce new regulations on PV recycling from January 1, 2014

The British government will introduce its interpretation of the European Union’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive for the disposal of PV modules ahead of schedule on January 1, 2014, in a move that has been applauded by pan-European recycling organization PV Cycle.

The U.K. has become the first EU member state to officially ratify its own national legislation on the laws, weeks in advance of the official February 14 deadline next year.

The WEEE Directive was updated in August 2012 to incorporate PV modules, with the industry given an 18-month transition period within which all 27 EU governments must incorporate new guidelines on PV waste into their national law.

According to the new directive, all PV modules that have reached their end-of-life (either because their warranty has expired or they have been damaged) must be disposed of in the correct manner. PV Cycle, with local presence in a number of European countries, is an organization that helps coordinate the take back and waste disposal of PV modules, managing a number of collection points across Europe and offering guidance on how PV producers can comply with the law and recycle their products accordingly.

The essence of the regulations

For the U.K. PV market, the new regulations require all importers of PV panels into the U.K. to register with a Product Compliance Scheme, which takes effect from January 1, 2014.

The scheme asks that all producers take full financial responsibility of the waste disposal of the PV panels they supply to the market, in addition to reporting all important data, such as numbers supplied and locations distributed to.

TheGreenMechanics: That's in Europe. They have until February next year to update their regulations to include PV in the waste management.

I'm not sure if we have ours yet. What is clear is that we have the relevant act for proper disposal of e-waste (electonic waste) but nothing's specific on photovoltaic panels.

Celcom, DiGi signed major backhaul deal with Telekom Malaysia, expect better support for 4G

What this means to the consumers of Celcom and DiGi is that, there should be improve network quality, low latency and high bandwidth for their mobile devices.

This will only be for Peninsula Malaysia, while Sabah and Sarawak will have to wait for, perhaps other means of enjoying better network quality.

Joining hands for better network quality. Photo: CWM

TM, Celcom and DiGi collaborate

Last week, Telekom Malaysia, Celcom and DiGi signed a wholesale bandwidth collaborative deal for TM Next-Gen Backhaul Services, which should help provide the infrastructure for broadband rollout through Malaysia.

Under the agreement, TM will provide wholesale bandwidth connectivity via TM Next-Gen Backhaul services for aggregation and access sites jointly owned by Celcom and DiGi, covering between 3,000-km and 5,000-km in Peninsular Malaysia.

The deal is part of an ongoing network collaboration between Celcom and DiGi announced in early 2011, that aims to roll out more than 10,000-km of fiber network nationwide.

For Celcom and Digi, the deal is expected to support the transmission requirements for their rollout of 4G LTE services and enable both companies to optimize cost and efficiently utilize TM’s infrastructure.

Further story at Computerworld Malaysia site.

TheGreenMechanics: This should be good news. But remember, announcement is not data and is only good for PR. Until then, we will have to be content with the slow 3G speed we currently enjoy.

This reminds me of Maxis, the other major telco in Malaysia. I'm quite sure the executives at Maxis have something up their sleeves to win customers back from possibly jumping ship to Celcom and DiGi as a result of this development.

Back to basic: How solar cells make electricity

As recently announced, we will soon be part of the national drive to encourage use of renewable energy  - in particular solar PV - to generate electricity. Starting Jan 1 next year, consumers in Sabah will join their counterparts in Peninsula Malaysia to invest in RE.

Solar energy is of particular interest as under the FiT mechanism, solar photovoltaic is one of the four renewable sources of energy in Malaysia that falls under the special tariff where everyone can take part. The others are biogas, biomass and mini hydro.

The following diagram shows how solar cells produce electricity:

Note: Diagram shows one type of panel, other panel may use different type of material.

Type of solar panel construction

Efficiency of a panel is the ability to convert sunlight to electricity. Here are example of different panels. Ratings are for comparison purposes, not a specific panel's rating.

  • Mono-crystalline panels use silicon produced in a continuous sheet, then cut to fit the panel. Typically the most efficient type, but the high silicon levels make them expensive.
    Efficiency: 18%
  • Poly-crystalline panels use groups of small cells instead of one large sheet. Due to lower silicon levels, they are a little less expensive to produce, but slightly less efficient.
    Efficiency: 16%
  • Thin-film panels use very thin layers of material, such as amorphous silicon. Versatile, heat-tolerant and the least expensive type, their lack of efficiency requires more panels. Not as long lasting.
    Efficiency: 9%

Sources: Solar Energy Industries Association, National Renewable Energy Lab., US Dept. of Energy, Mother Earth News, California Solar Energy Industries Association. Diagram/graphics via US Solar Institute.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The new Dell Chromebook 11 will not rely on Google's cloud

Chromebooks are low-cost laptops for those who do most of their computing on the Web.

While most Chromebooks on the market rely on Google for online services, Dell's new Chromebook 11 adds another cloud option to extend file sharing across desktops, laptops and mobile devices.

The Dell laptop, announced last week, will integrate Wyse PocketCloud, which allows files to be accessed, edited and shared across PCs, Macs and Android and iOS smartphones and tablets.

Features and specifications

Name: Dell Chromebook 11
Screen: 11.6-inch screen
Display: 1366 x 768-pixel resolution
Processor: Intel dual-core Celeron, based on Haswell micro-architecture
Operating system: Chrome OS
Internal storage: 16GB
Ports: USB 3.0 and HDMI
Weight: 1.31 kg
Battery life: 10 hours
Availability: starts shipping in January 2014
Price: below $300 (RM1,000)

What's pencil about the Dell's Chromebook 11

The PocketCloud application will also turn the Chromebook into a remote desktop. Users will be able to access Microsoft Outlook software on PCs or edit Word, Excel or PowerPoint documents. The application will be available for download in January. 

Most schools are likely to add Chromebooks to their existing Windows-based PCs, Macs and iPads, so having a tool like PocketCloud that can share files across multiple devices and multiple platforms is an advantage over those that can only use Google's services.

The addition of Wyse PocketCloud heightens the value of the Chromebook 11 over alternatives from Hewlett-Packard, Acer and Samsung that have "run-of-the-mill" Google services.

This feature will be helpful for students who want to remotely access Chromebook data from their tablets or smartphones, King said.

In October this year, Chromebooks running an updated version of Chrome OS hit the market. Here are some of them:

  • 11.6-inch screen:
Acer Chromebook C720 - $199
Acer Chromebook C720P - $299 (touchscreen)
HP Chromebook 11 - $279
Samsung Chromebook - $249. 
  • 14-inch screen:
HP Chromebook 14 - $299

Are you using one of these? If yes, what are the major drawbacks or advantages from your experience?

More info at Dell's press release

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Can eating burnt toast cause cancer?

Before we talk about burnt toast, let me share with you about what I was once told while enjoying my Sate Kajang (Kajang satay) - the satay that's famously originated from Kajang, Selangor. The delicacy is served with sliced or cubed cucumber for a purpose. The cucumber apparently 'neutralise' the compound formed in burnt meat that is believed to cause certain kind of cancer.

No scientific evidence was offered to support the idea, but they advise us to finish the cucumber cubes anyway.

Now, let's see what is ScienceFocus' take on burnt toast.

Are you a fan of toast? Maybe it's a good idea not to burn it.

It’s long been known that just over-heating, let alone burning, some foods can lead to the formation of compounds linked to cancer. These include heterocyclic amines and so-called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which can lead to fried or smoked foods posing a health risk.

In the case of burnt toast, most concern surrounds the risk from the formation of acrylamide, a compound that has been linked to cancer and nerve damage in animals. That said, the evidence of a direct link between cancer and acrylamide in food consumed by humans is far from compelling.

While some studies have pointed to a doubling in risk of ovarian and uterine cancer among women consuming this compound in food, other studies have found nothing.

Even so, in 2007, the European Union’s health advisors decided to take a precautionary approach, and recommended that people avoid eating burnt toast or golden-brown chips as they may contain unacceptably high levels of acrylamide.

TheGreenMechanics: So, while studies aren't conclusive, there's still belief that overly toasted bread can cause cancer. Have I been missing something? Because I have not been paying much attention to such 'risk' all this while.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Cree introduced 75 Watt equivalent LED for $24, Malaysian equivalent cheaper

Leading innovator of LED lighting and semiconductor products, Cree has introduced an LED bulb that can replace the 75W incandescent bulb and uses 82% less energy.

Built to the standard screw type A19, the 75W equivalent bulb consume just 13.5 watts of power. It was announced early this month and available for US$24.00 (about RM77.60)

Cree's 13.5W LED bulb is an equivalent replacement of the 75W incandescent bulb. Source: Cree

The company claims it will last 25 times longer than its energy guzzling equivalent. The brightness is an adequate 1,100 lumens. A fluorescent bulb of this brightness would consume about 20 watts.

Great things with LED bulbs are that they can be build dimmable. So are the 13.5W Cree bulbs. You can set them to achieve a very high brightness when needed, and you can simply dim them to save energy when the extra brightness is not needed.

Great! But that's a hefty price to pay for a bulb

There has to be something that makes the Cree bulb that expensive. The last time I checked, our local market price range for LED bulbs of 5W - 10W is RM30.90 to RM40.90. Still, the acceptance by the general public is low for this type of lighting.

This Panasonic 10W LED bulb is claimed to be the 75W equivalent of incandescent bulb. Priced at RM40.90 in Kota Kinabalu.

TheGreenMechanics: Energy saving compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) are available on the cheap at RM11.00 to RM18.00 (13W - 23W) and the price is dropping further. You can expect the LED lamp prices to drop substantially, too.

Cree's press release here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

EU importers must check origins of solar products

This is interesting as in Malaysia we have manufacturers of solar products where Chinese companies have direct or indirect interest.

What this means is that, there are products that are actually produced in China (as EU claimed), shipped to South East Asian countries, and then sold to EU purportedly manufactured in SEA.

We don't want our manufacturing plants in Malaysia to be just 'transit points' of the big solar manufacturers from China.

Our country, together with Indonesia and Singapore have been put in the spotlight by the watchdog in  Europe for possible fraud. - TheGreenMechanics

EU importers must check origins of solar products. Photo: Worlsmaritimenews

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Check where your solar products came from

In the wake of last week's EU decision on Chinese-made solar products, project developers in Europe have been warned to be vigilant about the true origins of solar goods they import.

A law firm in Stuttgart, Germany, has warned EU companies importing solar wafers, cells and modules from South East Asia to be certain of the manufacturing origins of any imports as it is importers who will be liable to pay anti dumping duties due on any falsely labelled products.

The EU decided to impose steepling anti dumping and anti subsidy duties on any products manufactured in China by companies which have not signed up to the minimum module price agreement negotiated by EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht in the summer, penalties amounting to up to 65% of the cost of the goods.

Customs authorities suspect some Chinese manufacturers will produce wafers, cells and modules in China, ship them to a neighbouring country and attempt to label them as originating in the latter country to get around the EU duties.

Duties can be applied retroactively

Isabel Ludwig, customs expert for the Stuttgart-based Rödl & Partner, has warned such imports can have the appropriate duties retroactively applied to them by the authorities up to three years back and the import company would be liable to pay regardless of whether it was aware of any mislabelling.

Rödl and Partner says the European anti-fraud office (OLAF) will be watching for any spikes in import levels of solar products from countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore in the months ahead.

Any unusual peaks will see officials visit the exporters in question to establish where their products are manufactured.

If EU importers can be proven to be aware of mislabelling, the heavy import duties could be supplemented by further fines and, in extreme cases, jail terms.

"Importers of solar products should thoroughly examine their supply relationships, establish the origin of their products and, where appropriate, be able to prove it," Ludwig told pv magazine.

Source: pv-magazine

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Housing developers urged to use Solar Thin-Film PV technology

You read the Bernama report below and you quickly think of the additional cost it will cause to the  price of your dream house, which would be hefty.

For a conventional solar PV installed on rooftop, 1kWp would cost around RM9,000 to RM10,000 without storage/battery. So, for an average size of 4kWp, a house buyer would have to pay an additional sum of RM40,000 which is about 15% of the price of a medium-cost house. For thin-film PV, there is no price reference yet in Malaysia.

Housing developers will hesitate. House buyers will be reluctant.

If SIRIM (and that would mean, the government) wants housing developers to incorporate solar PV technology in their construction, they need to give these developers carrot.

I don't know what that carrot would be, but both developer and buyer need to be convinced of the quantum of benefit of having solar PV built-in into their buildings.

"Lightweight and flexible solar technology" - as demonstrated here by Solopower System. Photo: Solopower

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

SIRIM: Use solar Thin-film PV technology in your construction

Sirim Bhd is proposing that housing developers use Solar Thin-Film Photovoltaics (PV) technology in their construction to further develop the use of green technology and add value to new buildings.

Solar Thin-Film PV is the state-of-the-art renewable energy technology which uses thin layers of semiconductors to absorb solar energy which can be transformed into electricity.

Renewable Energy Research Centre General Manager Mohd Fauzi Ismail said besides encouraging developers to be more competitive, house owners would also be able to enjoy cost savings in electricity consumption.

"The use of this technology can have a far reaching impact on the buildings as indirectly the building structure will have a dual-function.

"Solar Thin-Film PV not only can be used for roofing, walls and ceilings, but also as a source of power generation," he told Bernama after the launch of the Application of Wind Technology System for Energy Generation and Sustainable Thin Film PV Building and, the Renewable Energy Generation projects in Kudat on Sunday (Dec 8).

Solar Thin-Film PV technology had many advantages compared with other technologies as it required only low raw material input, was highly automated and efficiently produced.

The technology can be easily integrated with buildings, had a high performance level and as less sensitive under high temperatures, he added.

He said Sirim was ready to share its expertise with any housing developer who wished to apply the renewable energy in their construction.

Extracted from: Bernama, Dec 8, 2013

TheGreenMechanics: A demo house/building with solar thin-film PV installed on its rooftop would be very interesting. Where can I see one?

Internet in schools: Malaysian parents concerned about privacy, want online ads banned

Do you currently have school-going children?

Do you believe that the use of internet in schools will provide your children essential skills for the future? If your answer is yes, you are not alone. Many Malaysian parents think so, too, according to survey.

But like myself, a majority of those surveyed want online advertising or data mining of children’s personal information prohibited.

In-school internet access - the good and the bad. Infographic source: Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) and SafeGov.org

The survey found that 92% of Malaysian parents want all advertising-related practices to be banned from such services in schools with 82% calling for the government to pass a law to ban all advertising-related activities from online services in schools.

Are connected classrooms beneficial?

Definitely. More than three quarters of parents surveyed felt that Internet use would help their children to learn creativity, problem solving, and critical thinking. Furthermore, about 75% believe that it would aid their children to acquire essential skills for competing in this century.

Of course there are dark side to the use of certain internet services in schools - or for that matter, anywhere. Advertising services that engage in data mining are always of concern.

TheGreenMechanics: I believe in monitoring and mutual understanding of what the dos and don'ts are when going online into the cyberworld, although we give them some space of privacy for themselves.

Info source: Computerworld Malaysia

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

FiT mechanism to be implemented in Sabah in 2014

Feed-in Tariff (FiT) is a mechanism introduced in 2011 to promote renewable energy in the country, under the Renewable Energy Act 2011.

The implementation is under the purview of the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) Malaysia, an agency under the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry (KeTTHA). The Minister concerned happens to be from Sabah as well and it is just fair that we should take part actively in the promotion of renewable energy.

Your contribution to the RE Fund is illustrated on the highlighted column. Source: SESB tariff leaflet

Why do I need to contribute to the fund

It is about participation by the masses, in particular, those who consume large amount of energy. In Malaysia, those consuming 300kWh or more of electricity in a calendar month will contribute to the fund.

The more you consume, the more you pay. So, in a way, it is a means for you to pay your penalty back to nature  for the pollution caused by you for using energy. Note that, for every unit of energy you use, you are 'doing your part' of polluting the environment as power generators emit certain amount of CO2 in the process.

There are cleaner methods of producing electricity but they are more expensive. Because they are more expensive than the conventional fossil-fueled generators, your participation is required, and one way to. Do that is by contributing to the Renewable Energy Fund (RE Fund).

In Malaysia the RE Fund is managed by SEDA. TNB and SESB are only helping in collecting the levy from us. These utility companies will then channel the money to SEDA and they don't get a single cent from the collection.

From the available fund, SEDA would then formulate FiT rates which makes investment in renewable energy plants viable for companies and individuals.

But 1.6% of my total bill amount is too much!

If you ask me this, I'll say I agree with you.

When the fund was first created, SEDA only collect 1% from big consumers, plus, the government put an opening fund amount of RM300 million. I understand that the fund quickly evaporated as SEDA started to disburse payment to FIAHs and as it released more quota for solar PV to individuals and non-individuals.

That was when they proposed to collect additional 0.6% from consumers. Some interpreted this as 'sucking more blood from the rakyat'. I am neutral as far as quantum is concerned. But I believe it should be done in parallel with something.

And that something is none other than additional contribution from the government. The initial RM300mil is long gone, you need to inject more money if you are being fair to the consumers who are being levied 1.6%

I say the government need to and should contribute! Start small. For every Ringgit that is collected from consumers, the government match it with RM1.00 then we'll see how it develop.

TheGreenMechanics: Come January 1, I will be one of those affected by the FiT levy, so, I'll be watching the development very closely. Please don't squander the money you collect from my pocket. I support renewable energy, so, let's make this RE venture a successful one.

One day, I'd like to see my roof covered with 20m2 of efficient PV panels giving me 8kWp of solar power.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Solar and wind potential power supply alternatives for Sabah

To 'revolutionise' is a bit of an over-statement especially with regards to wind turbine but with up to 36 km/h (10 m/s) of wind speed as the study found, this is not impossible to achieve. Wind turbines starts generating electricity when the wind speed is 3 m/s but to make any venture viable, the speed has to be 5 m/s or more.

The demo units constructed in the feasibility study in Kudat generate a modest 34.8 kW of power - 25 kW from wind turbines  and the remaining 9.8 kW from solar PV.

This is too small a demo to scale an installation size that can 'revolutionise'  electricity generation on Sabah, but the result of the study is at least promising.

With regards to solar PV, Sabah - in particular, Kota Kinabalu - is known for being the best location (meaning highest solar irradiation) in Malaysia for photovoltaic installation.

Daily Express, December 9, 2013 - page 2

Solar And Wind Turbine Renewable Energy Can Revolutionise Electricity Generation In Sabah
Source: Bernama, December 8

Renewable energy from solar and wind turbine is not only an excellent power alternative for the future but it can also revolutionise electricity generation in Sabah, says Science, Technology and Inovation Minister Datuk Dr Ewon Ebin.

He said Sabah had its own uniqueness as it endowed was rich natural resources which could be used to generate renewable energy and contribute to economic development.

"Operational cost for power generation is extremelly high and power producers like Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd face a great challenge and the problem has been further aggravated by the inconsistent hike in fuel prices.

"As such, the government always welcomes any party that can come foward to explore and apply green energy and simultaneously support the government's move to develop sustainable energy," he said when launching two TechnoFund Mosti projects here Sunday.

The projects, the Application of Wind Technology System for Energy Generation and the Sustainable Thin Film PV Building and the Renewable Energy Generation, have been entrusted to Sirim Bhd by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation for research and development.

Overall, the projects can generate 25 kw of wind turbine power and 9.8 kw of solar energy.

The power generated can light up a resort near the project site in Tg Simpang Mengayau and can be supplied and stored in a battery system.

Ewon said the research findings can be developed on a large scale, commercially, and can contribute towards reducing the number of power interruptions in Sabah.

It can also bring cheer to the many rural residents who live far away from grid areas.

In the long-term, renewable energy can become a big alternative to the current practice of generating electricity from fuel oil, charcoal, diesel and hydro reservoirs which incur huge operational costs.

TechnoFund is a grant scheme funded by Mosti which covers 13 projects under the Renewable Energy Task Force.

Established by the Cabinet, the scheme provides funding for technology development, up to pre-commercialisation stage, with the commercial potential to create new businesses and generate economic wealth for the nation.

TheGreenMechanics: SIRIM Berhad and Mosti have proven in their 4-year study that it is very much feasible in Sabah. Now get some fund and implement it already!

It will at least help alleviate some of the power supply issues we have in the state.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tablet computer sales losing steam?

Says who? Says IDC, a research firm tracking the market of tablet computers globally.

Although tablets have been one of the hottest items in tech in recent years, growth is 'likely' to slow in the coming years.

My iPad: I prefer the bigger 9.7-inch full sized ipad to its 8-inch mini variant

IDC said global tablet sales are expected to hit 221.2 million units this year, up 53.5% from last year but below IDC's latest forecast of 227 million. It said tablet sales are still growing but the pace is slowing.

For 2014, the firm projects growth of 22.2% to a total of 270.5 million units and single-digit growth by 2017.

"In some markets consumers are already making the choice to buy a large smartphone rather than buying a small tablet, and as a result we've lowered our long-term forecast," said IDC analyst Tom Mainelli.

Meanwhile, in mature markets like the US where tablets have been shipping in large volumes since 2010 and are already well established, we're less concerned about big phones cannibalizing shipments and more worried about market saturation.

IDC said it is watching the mix of small versus large tablets.

While the market has trended toward small tablets over the last 24 months, the rise of large phones could push consumers back toward larger tablets -- the difference between a 6-inch smartphone and a 7-inch tablet isn't great enough to warrant purchasing both.

IDC has previously said it expects tablet sales to outpace that of traditional computers by 2015. Source: AFP

TheGreenMechanics: Losing steam or not, tablet computers will be here to stay. If they can be powerful enough to be able to do most things the traditional laptops do, I will consign my old trusty PC and notebook to the 'substitute bench'.

I'd like the tablet to be my workhorse.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

SESB launches operations room to explain subsidy gradualisation on electricity tariff

With the recent announcement of electricity tariff revision, consumers are expected to have questions and complaints pertaining to how they would be affected by the new energy rates.

Some will be directly affected while some (who use 300kWh or less energy) will be indirectly impacted by the expected increase in goods and services costs. Simply put, every consumers will be affected in one way or another.

The question is, how bad could it gets.

One of the critical areas the utility company needs to improve is supply security - how reliable the supply is. Photo: Kayu Madang PMU, by de engineur.

Operations Room for Tariff

Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) has launched an operations room (BGT) to enable the public to get information on the subsidy gradualisation on electricity tariff announced Monday (Dec. 2, 2013).

"The operations room was activated on Dec 2 and is handled by three personnel. It is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm and on Saturday from 8am to 12.30pm. It is closed on Sunday," SESB general manager (distribution) Ahmad Sazree Abd Aziz told reporters in Kota Kinabalu recently.

The public could submit queries and complaints by coming to the operations room on the ground floor of Wisma SESB in Karamunsing or dial toll-free line 1-800-88-4500 or via e-mail tariff@sesb.com.my.

According to Ahmad Sazree, consumers could also surf SESB's website at www.sesb.com.my which has the current electricity bill calculation facility to help consumers plan their power usage.

In short, these are the means of communication on tariff queries:

Call      : 1-800-88-4500 (Tariff Helpdesk)
Fax      : 088-282451
E-Mail  : tariff@sesb.com.my

TheGreenMechanics: I have sent query to the above given e-mail address (tariff@sesb.com.my) and am currently waiting for SESB's reply. Let's see.

Source: Bernama

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

SunEdison launches solar water pumps for farms in India

If you have problem with intermittent power interruptions and unreliable supply quality, or your are too far away from the power grid, bringing the power generator closer to you is the best solution.

In India, a specially designed high performance solar-powered water pump was recently launched by SunEdison meant for agriculture purpose. Featuring rugged structural design, pumps are available in 3HP (horsepower), 5HP, 7.5HP and 10HP variants.

SunEdision solar powered pump system. Photo: EPCworld

Designed by R&D teams in California and Bangalore, the latest innovation is claimed to be a perfect solution for farmers who need year-round cultivation and predictable daytime irrigation.

“SunEdison’s solar water pump solution addresses and enables a large and growing market. It is a tremendous opportunity for us to grow our business and help people transform their lives.”
- Ahmad Chatila, President and CEO of SunEdison

There are about 26 million irrigation pumps in India and of this, about 8 million run on diesel power with the rest using grid power. The solar powered pumps will enable farmers to grow cash crops that require predictable irrigation and more importantly, they will be able to utilize land that they previously could not irrigate.

The company expects this innovation to help farmers to increase crop yield by delivering reliable irrigation without dependence on expensive diesel fuel or intermittent electrical power supply. Photo: PR-newswire

Pump features

The solar pumping systems are designed to be rugged, and provide best-in-class performance. It is fitted with high-efficiency 3-phase AC pump complete with pump controller, VSD.

Rugged industrial design ensures reliable performance in the most adverse operating conditions and ensures reliable and safe operation for over 15 years, while allowing for easy maintenance.

How much

The solar water pump will cost around Rs 6 lakhs (RM30,900) which is quite expensive for the rural poor but with some innovative partnership between interested business organisations and the government, this should be made affordable to many.

TheGreenMechanics: The report mentioned that the company has already installed 250 such systems across India, and that the next generation of the solar pumps, which the company is planning to launch, would supply power to farmers' houses as well.

This is indeed a great intended progression of such initiative. No household should be deprive of power, not even those in the rural area.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Electricity tariff up by average 15% and 17% from Jan 1, 2014

You and I should brace ourselves for a 15% (Peninsula Malaysia) and 17% (Sabah and Labuan) hike in electricity tariffs next year.

Those are the averages of electricity tariff increase announced by the minister concerned few days after hinting that the government will raise Electricity Tariff by 10% to 20% in 2014 earlier.

The government says the tariff adjustment is a step to restructure subsidies into a form that is more targeted and sustainable.

To be exact, the average electricity tariff in:-

  • Peninsular Malaysia will be up 4.99 sen/kWh (14.89%) from the current average rate of 33.54 sen/kWh to 38.53 sen/kWh. 
  • Sabah and Labuan will be up 5.0 sen/kWh (16.9%) from current average rate of 29.52 sen/kWh to 34.52 sen/kWh.

Rates in Sarawak will not be affected because the electricity supply in the state is operated by state-run company, Sarawak Energy Berhad. There is a clear advantage in being able to control the utilities on your own, isn't it!

The new rates will take effect from Jan 1, 2014.

How it is compared to the existing one. Graphic by TheMalaysianInsider

Who will not be affected

Note that 70.67% of consumers in Peninsular Malaysia and 62% of consumers in Sabah and Labuan will not be affected by the tariff hike. There will be no tariff increase imposed on the consumers who use electricity at a rate of, or lower than, 300kWh a month.

Translated into absolute figures, 4.56 million consumers in the peninsula and 260,000 consumers in Sabah and Labuan will not be affected by this hike.

Who will be affected the most

Consumers whose electricity consumption is more than 300 kWh will be directly affected by the tariff restructuring. The group most likely to be affected are those whose electricity usage is between 301 to 400 kWh and 401 to 600 kWh.

We will look at the electricity tariff restructuring implications on commercial and industrial users next.

Source: The Star

Monday, December 2, 2013

Are our ministers salaries too high?

Last week, the media - mainstream and online portals - were filled with mixed views of Selangor leaders salary hikes. Some said they were justified, but many disagree and they heavily criticised the move by the opposition-led richest state in Malaysia.

How much will Selangor ministers and assemblymen get after the adjustment. Source: The Star

While not interested in politics, let me draw your attention to another move by oil-rich, biggest state in Malaysia, Sarawak. You can read about it here.

In May 2013, the Sarawak ministers and assemblymen approved a whopping three-fold (Selangor increased theirs by two-fold) raise for themselves and administrators of the state assembly. The Star Graphics

To compare, our nearest neighbour, Singapore pays its Prime Minister a whopping SGD$2.2 million annually, that's SGD$183,000 per month or about RM471,000 monthly. Then again, Singapore pays it ministers  and leaders top money and the city state is in a league of its own when comes to country leaders salary.

In no way we should emulate Singapore's remuneration system.

I'm just saying I'm bemused by how people react to Selangor ministers pay hikes.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

What is the oxygen level in a plane?

The other question people ask the most when going into the cabin is how clean or stale the air is inside there. There is an earlier article about that here.

Today we are asking  about adequacy of oxygen in the cabin.

Inside the cabin of an Airbus. Photo by de engineur.

Oxygen level in a plane

Oxygen levels in flight are broadly the same s on the ground, about 210,000 parts per million by volume - hat is about 21%.

However, at cruise altitude the cabin pressure is lower than on the ground at around 82kPa, equivalent to about 1,800m (6,000 ft).

For comparison, air pressure at sea level is 101kPa. At this low pressure, oxygen levels in the blood are lower than at sea level. A healthy person suffers no effects, but those with respiratory illness sometimes need additional oxygen.

Source: TheDailyExpress' Sunlife, December 1, 2013 - pp. 14

Saturday, November 30, 2013

LED smartbulb helps regulate circadian rhythm

LED lighting is not just about energy saving, or as greener alternative to incandescent light bulb. There is more to it - LED bulbs can be tailored into smart bulbs that 'nourishes' your circadian rhythm.

If you have trouble falling asleep or wake up groggy, you can now purchase a light-emitting diode (LED) smartbulb that reportedly can be programmed to tweak your circadian rhythms throughout the day.

The Smart Bulb Halcyon system. Photo - Halcyon

First, what's circadian rhythm

A circadian rhythm is a roughly 24 hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings, including plants, animals, fungi and cyanobacteria. In a strict sense, circadian rhythms are endogenously generated, although they can be modulated by external cues such as sunlight and temperature.

Circadian rhythms are important in determining the sleeping and feeding patterns of all animals, including human beings.

How can LED smartbulb help

Circadian disruptions, and the anxiety, insomnia and fatigue that they can cause, can decidedly be linked to the modern era, with people working late into the evenings in offices dominated by artificial light or looking at computer screens before bedtime, which research has found can leave people in an almost permanent state of jet lag.

British LED lighting company PhotonStar Technology Ltd. has announced its new consumer Smart Bulb system Halcyon, to be available to the general market in early 2014 but with a small pre-production run to go to Kickstarter backers. Early adopters can purchase three lightbulbs for £94 (about US$150), with delivery expected in April.

That's approximately RM496 at the current exchange rate.

An obvious contender against the Philips Hue sold in Apple stores and the upcoming LIFX Wi-Fi enabled, multi-color LED light bulb, the new Halcyon system is focused more on a multi-user solution for the whole home and family than its rivals, the company says.

The company claims that Halcyon is also the first smart lighting system to provide automatic circadian lighting, similar to the system commissioned by NASA to improve health and well-being by simulating changes in natural light, and preventing jet lag type effects.

How do you use it

To use, set your system to help you wake up in the morning with bright alertness-boosting light. "Design and select a scene to cook, whilst your partner takes a relaxing bath," the website says. "As your guests arrive, change the mood to something more relaxing."

"Any light that you turn on will be at the correct color and spectrum for the time of day, mimicking daylight, nourishing your circadian rhythm," the company says.

Source: TheBorneoPost's Nature & Health section, November 30, 2013, pp.21

Friday, November 29, 2013

Malaysia to raise Electricity Tariff by 10% - 20% in 2014

This is what was announced in a very general manner by the Minister, to which it would normally be construed as tariff hike by TNB alone. But I have reason to believe that Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) will also be affected the same way.

Don't ask me why and how I came to such conjecture, but let's just speculate that if it happen, it will most likely be by similar quantum to the one in July 2011, which is 15%. Do you feel your business is hurt already?

But...if you think about the bigger picture, electricity tariff revision is actually inevitable as we move forward towards industry competitiveness, and that can be achieved by reducing subsidies, but let's do it in gradual manner and not making this a yearly affair.

"Anything below 20% is reasonable." - Datuk Dr. Maximus Ongkili

Electricity tariffs to go up next year
(The Star, November 28, 2013)

Consumers should brace themselves for a 10%-20% hike in electricity tariffs next year.

“The quantum (of increase) is not finalised … but anything below 20% is reasonable,” said Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili.

The final decision on the increase has yet to be made by the Cabinet, but the hike could happen anytime in 2014, he told reporters on the sidelines of a Parliament session yesterday.

The move, he said, would be in line with the Government’s plan to gradually cut subsidies.

It would also be in line with its efforts to boost efficiency and competitiveness in the Malaysian power industry, as well as to ensure sufficient returns to capital for utility company Tenaga Nasional Bhd to cover its costs.

A tariff hike will see rates for both industrial and households increase, but any hike for businesses will be mitigated against the need for them to remain competitive. A home appliance that is rated at 1,000 watts, if left switched on for one hour, would use 1 kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity.

A 10%-20% hike would translate into an increase of 3.35 sen/6.7 sen per kWh to 36.85 sen/40.2 sen per kWh. This is based on the prevailing tariff rate of 33.5 sen per kWh, which is about 8.5 sen below the “true cost” of power at 42 sen per kWh.

In comparison, electricity tariffs in the Philippines and Thailand are 58 sen per kWh and 48 sen per kWh respectively.

Ongkili said the Government would implement a “stabilisation” programme to protect consumers, especially the low-income group, when the tariff hike takes effect. Details of the programme have yet to be finalised.

The electricity tariff was last revised in June 2011 after the Government raised the subsidised gas price for the power sector to RM13.70 per million metric British thermal unit (mmbtu) from RM10.70 per mmbtu.

Gas accounts for about 50% of electricity generation in peninsular Malaysia. Coal accounts for 40%, hydropower about 8% and renewable sources around 2%.

Subsidies for the power sector are RM8bil to RM12bil per year, depending on the prevailing price of gas. The Government’s share is RM150mil and the rest is borne by Malaysian oil and gas company Petroliam Nasional Bhd.

TheGreenMechanics: They say it's done in the name of efficiency & competitiveness. Let's see if we can achieve this.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

FiT attracts RM4.3billion investment from private sector

Malaysia claimed that it is one of the earliest nations among the ASEAN regional grouping to implement FiT mechanism to promote renewable energy. To date, this has attracted around RM4.3 billion in investment from the private sector.

RE sources in Malaysia that fall under FiT mechanism: Solar PV, Small Hydro, Biogas & Biomass

Pretty good start but we are definitely not in the front rows. I reckon Thailand and Singapore would occupy the first two slots in terms of aggressiveness in implementing renewable energy and energy efficiency, with or without FiT.

The news piece below (quoting Bernama) is a bit confusing as it mentioned "to promote and increase non-renewable energy to about 2,000 MW (2 GW) by 2020".

I think it should read "renewable" and not "non-renewable". Non-renewable sources refers to fossil fuels (petroleum, coal, natural gas, etc) and at present we are already generating more than 15 GW of energy from non-renewable sources.

What we are targeting for in 2020 is to generate 2,000 MW of renewable energy.

: :       : :       : :       : :       : :       : :       : :       : :       : :       : :       : :

For your reading pleasure....

531MW Non-renewable Energy Under FIT Offered
Bernama, November 22, 2013

PUTRAJAYA -- The Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry has offered 531 Megawatt (MW) electricity to the renewable energy sector under the Feed-In Tariff (FiT) incentive mechanism until the first half of next year.

Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said the implementation of the FiT mechanism for the renewable energy sector has attracted investments totalling RM4.3 billion from the private sector.

The investments are estimated to provide 11,700 new job opportunities, he said at the ministry's 2013 Industry Award presentation.

Ongkili said Malaysia was among the earliest nation in the 10-member Asean regional grouping to implement the FiT mechanism to promote and increase non-renewable energy to about 2,000MW by 2020.

The minister also said his ministry was taking measures to improve the FiT mechanism besides exploring other mechanisms to increase non-renerwable energy in the country. Ongkili also said Malaysia, among the first country to implement the electric vehicle programme in 2009, has established 20 electric vehicle charging stations in Greater KL and in Melaka.

"Tests on electric buses are progressing smoothly. It is hoped that the target to have 2,000 electric buses by 2020 will be realised.

"We've to pursue the electric vehicle programme rigorously like what other countries are doing. They've implemented the programme seriously.

"For instance, millions of electric vehicles will be on the road in the United States by 2025," he added.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

HTC One Max launched in Malaysia, retailed at RM2,499

HTC South Asia senior executives with SKWong (2nd right) Country Manager of HTC Malaysia at the launch. Photo - Computerworld Malaysia

HTC Malaysia has launched HTC One Max, a supersized version of its flagship smartphone that includes a new fingerprint scan feature, which delivers an enhanced smartphone experience, said the Taiwan-headquartered mobile devices manufacturer.

HTC phones are regarded as expensive alternative to Samsung's and the build quality is said to better with good luxury feel, although I've never bought one for myself to have the kind of experience.

HTC claimed that the upgrade to HTC Sense 5.5 (that's HTC's Android skin to you and me) will provide our most amazing mobile experience yet, with the HTC One max delivering the size and power required to do "everything you want, and more, without compromise."

HTC One Max specifications

Display           : 5.9" full HD1080p
Processor       : Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600
CPU speed     : 1.7 GHz
Memory         : 16GB or 32GB (news has it that the 32GB version may not be offered here)
Card slot        : micro SD
Battery           : 3300 mAh
Android skin  : HTC Sense 5.5
Price              : RM2,499 (expected retail price)

Additional 50GB of additional free Google Drive online storage is offered to HTC One max owners.

The built-in fingerprint scan feature, which is located on the back of the device, allows users to lock and unlock the screen and launch up to three favourite applications by assigning an individual finger to each, he said.

The HTC One max is available in Malaysia at all HTC retailers and selected mobile operators.

TheGreenMechanics: This is a phablet capable of giving Samsung Galaxy Note 3 a run for its money. The race for larger smartphone (or rather phablet) screen size isn't going to stop anytime soon, it seems. But I'll stick to my trusty old 4" screen phone for now, and maybe save a little bit of money.

I tend to agree with the recent research finding that bigger phones mean bigger bills.

Source: Computerworld Malaysia

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mitsubishi Motors cuts Japan electric car price by up to US$9,100(RM29,200)

This is something for Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia and the policy makers to think about.

In Japan, the electric car, i-MiEV is now selling at (after price cut and government subsidy):
  • Top range   - ¥2.0 million (about RM63,400)
  • Entry level  - ¥1.7 million (about RM53,900)

Mitsubishi's all-electric car, the i-MiEV is selling at RM139,888 (on the road) in Malaysia.

Acceptance is slower than expected

Mitsubishi Motors Corp has slashed the price of its i-MiEV electric minicar in Japan by up to US$9,100 aiming to boost sluggish sales as makers of electric vehicles face slower-than-expected acceptance of the technology.

Japan's sixth-biggest carmaker, which started selling the i-MiEV in 2009, said it was dropping the price of its top of the range i-MiEV by around 25%, or 900,000 yen (RM29,200 at current exchange rate), to ¥2.9 million.

With government subsidies, the model can be bought in Japan for around ¥2 million.

Mitsubishi Motors also cut the price of the entry level i-MiEV by 190,000 yen to ¥2.5 million, which with subsidies can be bought for about ¥1.7 million.

TheGreenMechanics: If we want to encourage the adoption of energy efficient and electric vehicles in this country, we really need to relook at the relevant policies and make such vehicles affordable to many.

Full article at The Malay Mail