This week at TreeHugger: Intel announced it's doing something cool (besides being in the MacBook Air); the company will become the largest buyer of green power in the United States. A big group of companies have put together a portfolio of patents called the Eco-Patent Commons that will (supposedly) be open for use by all companies who want to use tech in patents to reduce their impact on the planet. Lastly, you've heard of wave power, wind power and solar power; now, behold rain power (really!).

Intel announced yesterday that it will purchase more than 1.3 billion kilowatt hours a year of "renewable energy certificates," which adds up to 46% of their total electricity usage. That will make it the largest buyer of green power in the United States and give a boost to clean energy production, leading to increased generation capacity and eventually lower costs for everyone. It will also indirectly make your computer greener if you buy Intel (that's right, future MacBook Air owners), and it will pressure competitors to follow suit. We hope.

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A group of companies, including IBM, Nokia, Pitney Bowles and Sony, in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, have put together a portfolio of patents called the Eco-Patent Commons with environmental benefits. The patents can be used in manufacturing and business processes, and will supposedly offer other companies ways to save energy and water, reduce the production of hazardous waste, increase recycling or cut back on materials or resources. Sony, for one, offered up a patent for recycling old cellphones into digital cameras and other electrical equipment, providing the electronics industry with a new reuse option.

Lastly, hold on to your hats (and umbrellas) as we uncover the latest source of renewable energy: rain drops. Seriously. Scientists at the atomic energy commission in France realized that every time a drop impacts on a surface it is an opportunity missed. Each raindrop has an impact energy that is highly dependent on the size of the drop; from a small drizzle drop that has 2 microjoules on impact, to a downpour-sized drop that carries 1 millijoule of impact energy. The team was able to capture between 1 nanojoule and 25 microjoules of energy per drop (again depending on the size of the drop). The total power will vary incredibly depending on the conditions, but the device produces about one microwatt of power in a light drizzle. We can see it now: instead of raining cats and dogs, it might soon be raining iPod and cell phone chargers; stay tuned.

TreeHugger's EcoModo column appears every Tuesday on Gizmodo.

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