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Student news: Student entrepreneur aims to reduce carbon emissions by selling laptop energy credits

 

Screen capture of the Powered Green homepage

The average laptop uses enough energy over the course of its lifetime to power an American home for a month.

If Ted Durkee has his way, all that energy will be produced by wind turbines.

University of Wisconsin-Madison mechanical engineering student Durkee and recent UW-Madison business school graduate Brandon Gador have started a company that sells renewable energy credits (RECs) for laptops. They hope their company, Powered Green, will reduce carbon emissions in the United States by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pounds.

To offset the energy used by their laptops, Powered Green customers can purchase an Energy Seal—a sleekly designed emblem that adheres to a laptop—for $16. Purchasing an Energy Seal means 690 kilowatt hours of wind energy will be produced to offset the amount of carbon energy required to run a laptop for seven years. Currently, Energy Seals purchase RECs for the Hollow Horse Wind Farm near Abilene, Texas, which is the world's largest wind farm.

Energy Seals also are intended to be a public statement for the environmentally conscious consumer. “There are few opportunities for people to show they’re green beyond using reusable grocery bags or driving a Prius,” says Durkee. “This is a cool way for someone sitting down with their laptop at a library or coffee shop to show off in visually appealing way that they support green energy and sustainability.”

The seals are the size of a Band-Aid and come in either silver or white. The seals, along with the envelopes and packaging they are mailed in, are made from recycled materials.

There’s an added bonus to purchasing a seal from Powered Green instead of other REC sellers: Durkee and Gador will donate 10 percent of their profits to land conservation charities.

“We think the two most important ways to alleviate the exponential growth in consumption going on in societies around the world right now are renewable energy and land conservation, says Durkee.

Powered Green is the result of seven months of research and design. Durkee attended school part-time in spring 2008 in order to devote 60 hours of work to the company each week. “This is what I’m passionate about,” he says. “I want to spend the rest of my life working on endeavors and projects that make an impact on the environment.”

Durkee's passion from the environment stems from his interest in outdoor hobbies. He is an avid backpacker, canoeist and hiker.

In college, Durkee was motivated to act on his interests after two engineering courses. He was a student in the late Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Peter Bosscher's final sustainable engineering course before Bosscher died from kidney cancer in November 2007. Durkee was inspired by Bosscher's dedication to improving the environment, and after taking another course with Civil and Environmental Engineering Michael Oliva, he wanted to start a business that supported wind energy.

He and Gador purchased 1 million Green-e certified RECs for the Hollow Horse farm, equivalent to 1,000 RECs. “When we came across this idea, we were excited not only for the effect on environment, which will be quite significant, but because it is one of first environmental products that provides customers with an opportunity to express themselves,” says Durkee.

People can vote on Energy Seal designs on the company website, www.poweredgreen.com, as well as participate in an online energy blog.

Overall, the experience of starting and running a company has been a roller coaster, Durkee says. “We will find out soon if people embrace this, but either way, the experience has been worth the work.”

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9/19/2008