Tech companies and climate change

Just noticed this on Apple’s homepage:

This image highlights quite a good case for miniaturisation of tech - smaller hardware means less waste for landfill (and hopefully more recyclable too):

What do you think? Do you think tech companies are doing enough?


Corresponding tweet for this thread:

Share link for this tweet.


Google announced climate related info yesterday for Earth Day as well:

Amazon also recently made some announcements around what they are doing as well:

I believe that these companies not only believe that is in the planet’s best interest to “go green” but it is also in their own best interest to do so. Change on this scale is hard, takes time and is super expensive. I do believe that we will get there though.

I work for an electric utility, Duke Energy, where we are on track to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050. If you would like to read about that, you can see the report we put out last year here:


Not nearly enough. Apple are the richest company in the world so I would want to know why 2030 and not now? What is it exactly that is stopping them doing everything they say they are going to do–today?

May I put the same question to you Dwayne - why 2050? (Welcome to the forum btw :man_dancing:)


@Carter I was wondering how long it would take someone to ask! :joy: 39 years does seem like a long time from now but there are so many issues that have to be taken into account:

  • The current infrastructure of the electric grid wasn’t really designed for two-way power flows that we will be seeing with distributed energy resources (DERs) like solar, wind, etc. Consistent and steady power flows are an issue with DERs as they are not always “on” but energy storage is getting better to help in that regard. The combination of these is just not ready to be able to replace the entire grid though. It does work pretty well for microgrids though.
  • Loads will be drastically different. In a lot of suburban neighborhoods in the US, a single distribution transformer serves about 4-5 houses. If all of those homes now have an electric vehicle (or several) and they plug up to charge at the same time, that transformer will most likely fail as it wasn’t designed for that level of inrush current.
  • Software to control the grid today isn’t effective for a lot of DERs being attached to the grid. We have done some studies in our group and once DER penetration hits a certain percentage, that software will no longer work effectively. There are a lot of people working on this though.
  • Rules and regulations are messy and take a really long time to change. With all of the DER for green energy, we have to determine how grid infrastructure will be paid for as usage patterns will not be the same as today. Currently, we bill mostly on kWh usage, sometimes kW peaks and sometimes VAR. That may not be the case in the future. Being regulated means we serve everyone, not just the ones that can afford it and our utility commissions hold us to that. Just recently, it took nearly 2 years to get a rate case approved to make sure it was fair for everyone.

Let’s put some of the above into a little bit of context with an example. A portion of what we all pay for our energy bills goes into the maintenance of the electric grid. If the everyone who can afford to go green and get off the grid does that, revenue coming in to maintain the grid goes down. If maintenance can’t be done, the grid as a whole will start experiencing more problems and there will be outages. Who suffers in this scenario? The folks who can’t afford to “go green” yet. This is where this balancing act needs to come into play so it is fair for everyone.

These are just a few the issues that I’m aware of and I’m nowhere near the C-suite! :sunglasses:

We are actively working on what it will take to “go green” but it just takes time to change the infrastructure of the grid that has been built over the years. In the process, we are making sure that everyone can “keep the lights on” as things change for this new energy world we are moving towards.

Hope this helps and makes some sense.


@Carter (and everyone else for that matter), just as a little follow up…

Today Duke announced a new organization, Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions. You can read more about it here if you want to:

One particular item to take note of is in the last paragraph:

“on track to operate or purchase 16,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2025”

This would effectively double our current renewable energy capacity. We are definitely pushing hard to make the future a clean energy one.

Just thought I’d pass it along.


Is that per month, day or year Dwayne? How many homes would they cover per year? Just curious :smiley:


@AstonJ there are a couple of different “units of measure” you are talking about there:

MW (megawatts) - capacity or peak generation amount
MWh (megawatt-hour) - energy usage over time

That 16,000 MW value mentioned is the maximum capacity. This is the amount that could be produced if everything was “wide open” producing as much as possible at any one particular instant. Needless to say you can’t produce that amount 24x7 especially for distributed energy resources like solar. For example, a perfect solar production curve looks something like this:


This graph that I copied from a Bing image search shows the producing peak around 80% of rated capacity for the solar panels (which is about right) but for our explanation, let’s assume that we get 16,000 MW at that 80% mark. Needless to say, we don’t get 16,000 MW all day long. At night time, there is nothing. Then you start seeing the production ramp up as the sun comes up early of a morning and then trails back off during the afternoon. If you take the average over the course of a day, it might be 4,000 MW during a 24 hour period on a perfect day. Now we are starting to get into energy usage! :sunglasses:

If we take that average of 4,000 MW * 24h in a day we end up with 96,000 MWh (energy usage). Since we are normally billed at a kWh (kilowatt-hour) value, 96,000 MWh = 96,000,000 kWh of energy produced per day.

Now, we normally like to say that an “average” US home uses about 1,200 kWh/home each month. I’m not sure that this is really accurate (I know I use a lot more than that) but it is an easy number to work with here. To get that to a daily number let’s divide by 30:

1,200 kWh/30 days/home ~ 40 kWh/day/home <= average per home

Now, take the total energy generated per day / average usage per day:

96,000,000 kWh/day / 40kWh/day/home ~ 2.4mil homes

Now of course this assumes a perfect production day every day which as you know never happens with solar. But, as you start layering in other generation (wind, batter energy storage, hydro) that can pick up slack in lower solar production times, this can change the equation some. So basically, take my numbers above with a grain of salt…they are just an example with some round numbers. The real calculations to help balance supply and demand have to take a lot into consideration…and I don’t work in that department so I’m not an expert. :joy:

If you want to look into things a little more on solar production, research “duck curve solar” and see what you get. Basically, energy usage and solar production do NOT align with each other which causes problems for the balancing of power on the electric grid…but this is where things like energy storage can come into play to help balance things out again. There is a whole lot to unpack here. :wink:

Hopefully this helps a little.


Thanks Dwayne that’s very helpful :smiley:

I think here in Wales we’d need a mix of strategies - solar, wind, and maybe even something for smaller rivers (we have lots of them here in Wales and some can be quite ‘fast’).

Just found this which is really neat - produces 12kwh which he said can run about 2 thirds of a home and everything used to make the device costs 40 euros! (about $48) It’s open source too.

I’m surprised actually people don’t use alternators more in open source/DIY projects like it…


While I applaud his creativity (I really love hacking things together like this) and building what could be a really useful device in certain scenarios ($50 is awesome), be cautious with the numbers he is telling you. 2/3 of most homes is nowhere near what his turbine will be able handle.

Let’s run through a few numbers. Notice he says “about 500 watts” in the power output. That amount is peak power. 500w is fine is all you want to power is your lights (if they are LED), charge your laptop and phone and run some basic small appliances but that small turbine won’t even drive the motor and heater in a hair dryer. You need around 1200-1500w for a single hair dryer depending on its rating. The Keurig coffee maker that I have requires 1500w. Most HVAC systems pull around 4000-6000w (4-6kW) while they are running. Then if you have an electric vehicle with a level 2 charger (240v * 30 amps = 7.2kW), that adds even more.

Power requirements can add up really fast so just make sure you have the full picture. You have to take into account both peak power (kW) along with total energy (kWh) when planning out your usage.


Good point Dwayne. There was another video where someone did similar and was actually selling energy back to the utility company too, so I guess that would be pretty good - use what you can in the daytime (for lights etc) and then sell back to the utility company at night when you’re not using much to offset for your more power hungry devices that require the grid?

I think it might have been this video:


Is this where govts could help by subsidy schemes and what if companies like yours shifted the focus to becoming renewable energy providing companies instead, where they supply solar panels etc? Just thinking out loud :man_dancing:


@AstonJ Selling back to the utility company is a legitimate thing and can offset a customer’s cost. A lot of people do this exact thing when they put solar panels on their roof. The majority of the time the home isn’t using enough power at the time that energy is being produced by the panels so that electricity needs to go somewhere. It either needs to be absorbed by some kind of energy storage system at the home (such as a battery) or it will be pushed back onto the grid. It WILL flow somewhere. In the case of this generator, it would be producing at night when most people are asleep so selling back to the utility makes some sense.

With the example of that turbine in that video, the grid would never really notice 500W being pushed back onto the grid. The grid is just so much more powerful that this amount would just be absorbed with no one noticing. The problem comes in when the pushback onto the grid becomes “too much”. When this happens, it can cause voltage and frequency instability that can affect people in very negative ways.

In one example, pushing “too much” back onto the grid can cause the voltage on the grid to rise. Since W = Volts * Amps * cos(theta), higher volts means the watts that you consume increases which causes bills to go up without changing any usage patterns. Just think if your neighbor had a huge solar array on their house pushing back to the grid. If that electricity flow wasn’t managed correctly, your bill could go up without you doing anything just because your neighbor had solar panels.

Another example is protection settings. The grid is designed that when faults happen, devices like breakers and reclosers (basically a type of switch) are programmed to open to protect people from getting hurt or killed. If “too much” is being pushed back onto the grid without it being managed properly, these breakers and reclosers may never see a fault and keep the circuit “hot” putting people and property at risk of electrocution.

Right now, there are several people working on this problem of managing this “reverse” power flow from devices like this generator and solar panels. We just have to make sure that it is managed properly so we don’t cause more problems than we are solving. We want everyone’s lights to stay on. :blush:


@Carter the government (at least for some states in the US) has provided subsidies to help offset the costs of adding renewable energy like solar panels to a home. The issue is that these subsidies still don’t offset the cost enough for most people. The prices are still coming down and the efficiency is getting better but we are still not there yet price wise.

As far as us becoming more of a renewable energy company, we are really pushing in that direction. If you notice from one of the earlier posts that I made in this thread, Duke is looking to purchase and operate 16,000 MW of renewable energy by 2025. That would account for nearly 1/3 of our entire generation capacity right now and we provide electricity to approximately 7.5 mil homes and businesses from Florida to North Carolina (where I’m located) to Indiana. Definitely nothing to sneeze at.

One of the issue with putting solar panels just about everywhere is the managing of the power flows on the grid. Since the grid wasn’t built for the use case of “reverse” power flow from things like solar panels, we could cause more harm than good by putting solar everywhere without having the capability of managing it. Plus, having lots of “small” renewable energy being generated everywhere is just not as cost effective at the present time as having a smaller number of “large” renewable energy sites. That is why all of these huge central generation plants like coal, hydro and nuclear were originally built.

One of the things that we have looked into is the possibility of “community” microgrids. Here a neighborhood would have a centrally located “large” solar and energy storage site that could help power the neighborhood in case of power outages on the grid. The neighborhood could disconnect from the grid but still power the homes within it from this “larger” site. Again, at the present time, setups like this are still just more economical than having it on every home.

Hope that helps.