Inside Segway Inventor Kamen’s Off-the-Grid Island Home
Energy-saving LED lighting—plus solar, wind and geothermal systems—have turned Segway inventor Dean Kamen’s second home into a net-zero island.
ColorGraze lamps downlight the brick exterior. Credit: John Brandon Miller
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December 15, 2009 by Steven Castle

An LED Light System Manager from Philips controls the island’s color LEDs, and can modulate each bulb to control the brightness, generate different colors from the red, green and blue LEDs, and use less power.

The LED lighting is also programmed to illuminate the wind turbine, with the color of light depending on how much energy it is producing: red for 1 kilowatt (kw), orange for 2 kw, yellow for 3 kw and so on.

White LEDs inside the house are on individual dimmers, a commercial-grade Teletrol energy monitoring system can remotely turn them on and off. The Teletrol system also provides information on the amount of power each utility is using on the island, the status of energy stored in batteries, as well as the amount of power produced from the solar panels and wind turbine.

Innovative Power
The savings provided by the LED lighting enable the wind turbine and 10 kw of Evergreen solar panels to power the island. Also helping to power the island is another Kamen innovation called the Stirling engine, a no-emissions power source that can produce electricity from virtually any fuel source. The Stirling engine is nothing new; it drives its piston by forcing gas from one chamber to another in a perfectly closed system.

The Stirling system can also help heat the house by separating its waste heat from combustion gases and using the waste heat to warm water. A geothermal system also contributes by pulling seawater from a sea well. The warmth of the seawater helps heat the air of a forced air system and the glycol of an in-floor radiant heating system. The seawater is also desalinated by a reverse osmosis system so it can be used for domestic water.

For generating fresh water on a pile of rock surrounded by the sea, Kamen also plans to turn to another of his inventions, a vapor-compression distiller that he claims can produce purified water from any source, even toxic waste. His goal is to use his vapor-compression distillers to desalinate the salt water for drinking, washing and domestic use.

Together, Kamen’s Stirling engine and water purification system is known as Slingshot, which he looks to provide to Third World villages, with his island serving as a test-bed for the technologies. “We’ve got a big, rolling physics laboratory here,” Kamen says.

Dean Kamen’s off-the-grid island will always be a work in progress. Plans are under way for another 10 kw of solar panels on solar tracking systems, so they’ll follow the path of the sun, as well as another wind turbine. And you can bet this prominent inventor will always be tweaking the system to get the most out of his island home. 

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.


Philips Color Kinetics
Burlington, Mass.

Lighting and Renewable Energy Systems Installation
Demand Electric
Manchester, N.H.

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