Dean Kamen’s island reduces energy consumption by 50%

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Dean Kamen's island reduces energy consumption by 50%

Chicago (IL) – Dean Kamen is among the more visible invenmtors in this country and now mainly known for the Segway scooter, a robotic prosthetic arm capable of moving when you think, and a wheelchair that can travel up stairs. Now he has created an all LED environment on an island that has reduced its energy consumption by 50%.

North Dumpling Island is located just off the Connecticut coast. The three-acre island houses what Kamen jokingly calls an independent nation. The island is LED operated.

The concept behind North Dumpling Island was that the entire community would no longer depend on the traditional electric grid and would instead produce its own power utilizing both wind and solar power sources. In effort to make this happen Kamen first had to reduce energy consumption. A critical decision was to utilize LEDs, light-emitting diodes, instead of traditional and more power hungry light sources.
LED lighting generally uses one fifth of the power that is typically consumed by standard incandescent fixtures. Kamen believed that utilizing LEDs would bring the power usage down to an amount that would be sufficient enough to allow an energy independence on the island.

Kamen enlisted the help of his long-time friend and chief technology officer of Phillips Color Kinetics, Fritz Morgan. Together the two men worked on removing each incandescent fixtures from the home of Mr. Kamen’s home, the caretaker’s house, and an additional guest house. The fixtures were then replaced with Color Kinetics products.

The products include LED downlights (which are mounted in ceilings and emit light downward), undercabinet kitchen lights, and exterior lights that bathe the outside walls in different changing color patterns.

Morgan also installed in the home a prototype of a reflector bulb, the PAR38. This bulb should be delivered to the market sometime in 2009. Just with your typical reflector bulb today, the bulb is capable of being dimmed, and it has the same warm color temperature as an incandescent bulb.

The difference in the PAR38 and a regular bulb is that they reduce the energy consumption in a home by a claimed 70%. Combined with the energy consumed by the exterior lights, the total energy consumption in the home was reduced by about 50%, which was enough to remove the island from the grid, Kamen said.

The total average power drawn by the home is 2500 watts. If the entire house is running at full power both inside and out, the power consumption peaks at 5000 watts.

Kamen said he wants to share his findings. In spring of 2009, he plans on hosting a fund-raiser for FIRST, which is an organization designed to encourage the involvement of young people in science and technology, and will invite others to see the home during that fund-raiser.

The lighting installed in his home is fantastic, however it is pricey. It is not reallysomething that would be possible for the average consumer. The cost of LED lighting is dropping, but the technology remains too expensive for average home use. The ColorBlast units utilized in the lighting of the exterior of Kamen’s home cost $600 each (including the power supply). It is cheaper than the $1300 price tag in 2001, but it may need to come down a bit more until the average consumer will purchase these devices.