I own a home in the Lake Tahoe region (Nevada side), and it can get a fair amount of snow. Not as much as I’d like most of the time–yes, I like the beauty of the fluffy white water–but around 40′ per year (yes, feet). It often comes in fairly big drops at a time with usually good weather in between. And after seven years of living there (at least part time living there), I finally went out and purchased a snow blower. Before then, it was pure man-power–two snow shovels of different styles depending upon the type and depth of the snow. Yes, I always enjoyed the work out in the fresh air. I have a very large driveway, and used to have a Subaru and other all-wheel or four-wheel drive cars before then, in which I would wait for the garage door to open, the street to be clear of cars, and hit ramming speed so that my car would essentailly fly off the snow on my driveway onto the street. I would repeat the same for getting back into the garage: wait for the door to open, ram the driveway snow and slide into the garage. A couple of near misses of almost sliding into the house were a bit close. Well, after several shovelings in a row with limited time to shovel due to my busy schedule, I thought again about owning a snow blower as a time saver, but I never wanted a 250 pound metal contraption that burns fuel and makes noise, taking up a lot of space all year in my garage for a few uses each year. It seems to make little sense vs my exercise regime. But time was not on my side. Now you’re probably wondering what this blog post has to do with data center or energy…I’m getting to it.
I own a cordless electric lawn mower and weed wacker, each which I love for their silence, no fumes and function-ability. I can mow or trim at 6 AM on a Sunday without disturbing neighbors with noise, I have no tune ups, spark plugs, pull starters, fumes to breathe, oil and gas cans to fill and spill, and less than $3 total per year in electricity. (Yes, I measured it over a full year.) So, I looked into electric snow blowers. Well, there are no cordless ones, only cordless, so I purchased a slightly used Toro electric snow blower and have been amazed with it’s snow throwing ability. It can throw snow, depending upon the depth (the deeper the better) about 10-20′, cuts thru 12″ deep snow, or deeper with a second pass, and clears my larger driveway quicker than my neighbors can do the same with their gasoline powered ones. One problem: cord. Yes, I have a plenty long extension cord and an easy plug I installed for it, but I have to plan out the “route” and keep the cord clear, which is every pass for the first few passes, than about once every ten passes once I get sections cleared. But, a few days ago, feeling lazy and deciding to see what would happen if I ran over the cord instead of clearing it. It was worse than I imagined. Within about one second, the cord was wrapped at least 20 times around the blade, very tightly. After about 5 mins of figuring out how to solve this problem, the unwrapping process was rather easy and quick, but it made me wanting a battery powered snow thrower so as not to mess with a cord at all. Today, battery technologies would make this $250 snow thrower over $1000, many times it’s svelte 35 pound weight, and likely not quite as powerful. It is battery technologies that are one of the greatest keys to solving many challenges, weather to store energy from solar plants, for our many electronic tools and toys, to propelling our transportation. Improved battery technologies at lower cost, weight, and better performance will be key to implementing many energy efficiency, fume reducing, and performance enhancing solutions. Let’s push for much better energy storage technologies; one of the holly grails for many things.