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Monday, July 12, 2010

Family move into house to test latest low-energy gadgets

A family of three are moving into a green technology-packed home to test life in an energy-constrained future.

As the federal government puts the finishing touches to its new climate change policy, one Sydney family is embarking on a year-long experiment to live in an energy-constrained home of the future.

Clare Joyce, Michael Adams and their daughter Ava will live rent free for a year in a house in Newington crammed with solar technology and gadgets designed to slash greenhouse gas emissions and water use.

The garden has a semi-transparent solar pergola, which generates electricity and provides shade, rooftop photovoltaic panels, a miniature power plant and other energy- and water-saving devices, courtesy of EnergyAustralia and the state government's climate change fund.

"We have an ordinary family moving into an extraordinary house to put it to the test," said the Energy Minister, Paul Lynch.

The family would write a blog about their time in a high-tech fishbowl and the information would be used to help design energy policy, the government said. ''It will be a learn-as-we-go experience, testing different approaches and trying to understand exactly where all our energy is going,'' Ms Joyce said.

''We wanted to do something (about sustainability) on an individual level. There are lots of things in this world where you don't think you can have an impact but the individual has to contribute otherwise the collective never will.''

The family is moving to the new home week. Mr Adams said they did not know what to expect but Ava, 4, had been in training with copies of the futuristic 1960s cartoon The Jetsons.

''She watched pretty much all of the second series on DVD and she'll probably be disappointed that she doesn't get to have a flying car,'' Mr Adams said.

EnergyAustralia said the family was chosen from 160 applicants, including some from as far afield as New York and Sweden.

"We'll see warts and all what works and what doesn't,'' said the managing director of EnergyAustralia, George Maltabarow.

The company is awaiting news from the federal government this week, with cabinet examining options for an energy-efficiency plan that could include a scheme to encourage providers to cut consumption.

What makes this house low-energy?

Pergola with semi-transparent solar panels generates up to 0.5 kilowatts of electricity.
Kitchen bench top sand floor made from bamboo and recycled paper and rubber.
Meters for individual taps.
Recycled water for us in toilets and washing machine.
LED "chandelier" uses 25 per cent of energy needed by conventional downlights.
Garden with 20 types of native plants will never need watering once established.
Kitchen appliances can be turned of and off remotely via the internet.
Ceramic fuel cell generates electricity from natural gas.
Extra power from rooftop solar panels.
Energy-saving heat-exchange air-conditioner.
Heat pump clothes dryer.

.. from smh

Friday, July 09, 2010

Election 2010

Monkeys catapult to freedom over fence

TOKYO: Monkeys at a research institute in Japan have used the branches of trees to catapult themselves over an electric fence.

A group of 15 monkeys at Kyoto University's primate research institute in Aichi Prefecture escaped from their forest home, which is encased by a five-metre-high electric fence. The monkeys made their break for freedom by bending and releasing tree branches to fling themselves over the fence.

Despite the intelligence demonstrated by their great escape, the primates appeared unsure what to do with their freedom: they remained by the gates of the centre and were lured back by scientists with peanuts.

''We think that maybe there was some kind of dispute among the monkeys in the forest and so this group decided to leave,'' Hirohisa Hirai, the deputy head of the institute, said. ''Fortunately, they stayed by the fence after escaping as they probably wanted to stay near to the other monkeys.''

Scientists have cut the trees in order to prevent a repeat escape.

The Kyoto institution is one of the world's leading primate research centres, which has produced a series of studies exploring the social interaction, behaviour and evolution of primates.

Telegraph, London

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