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“Tree Power”—Bio-Energy for Forest Service’s Climate Sensor Network

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Voltree Power has announced its first contract with the USDA Forest Service, following a rigorous and successful test in June of its Climate Sensor Network. The Climate Sensor Network complements the USDA Forest Service’s Remote Automated Weather Stations network. Its durable and inexpensive mesh network of low-power sensory nodes was designed to operate underneath the forest canopy, and collect and report data on wind speed and direction, air humidity, and temperature. The data, which is transmitted back to fire officials, can be used to assist in the prediction of areas in the forest at higher risk for fires at the time the information is collected. The initial contract is for a total of five network systems, the first to be deployed in Boise, Idaho, and tested through the end of this year. 

In 2008, Voltree Power received a patent for its bio-energy harvesting technology, which collects the energy that is naturally produced by living trees and other large plants, and uses it to trickle charge and run low-power circuits. The USDA Forest Service is evaluating a wireless mesh network application of the technology, with nodes that consist of low-power transceivers, sensors and Voltree Power’s bio-energy harvesting technology. Data collected by the nodes would be transmitted from one node to another until they reach a central monitoring station. Each station provides a satellite microwave uplink connection that allows the collected information to be shared with government agencies and many others worldwide.

The USDA Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are not the only major entities to recognize the potential of Voltree’s bio-energy harvesting technology. Texas Instruments has been a contributor to the development of the Climate Sensor Network, providing industry-leading, ultra-low-power embedded processing and power management technology that enables innovative, self-powered applications. In addition, work by a group at the University of Washington with no ties to Voltree has confirmed the viability of operating low-power circuitry from tree power, a methodology covered broadly by Voltree’s issued patent and pending patent applications.