Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wind Energy Bumps into Power Grid's Limits

There seems to be a consistent problem with new energy sources getting to the final distribution point. Now with the new solar craze, I have to wonder...what is the solution?

The Energy Challenge

When the builders of the Maple Ridge Wind farm spent $320 million to put nearly 200 wind turbines in upstate New York, the idea was to get paid for producing electricity. But at times, regional electric lines have been so congested that Maple Ridge has been forced to shut down even with a brisk wind blowing.

That is a symptom of a broad national problem. Expansive dreams about renewable energy, like Al Gore’s hope of replacing all fossil fuels in a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.

The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.

Read Full article here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monitoring the Planetary Emergencies

The identification of Planetary Emergencies and their categorisation into
fifteen main groups

To date the World Federation of Scientists has established the following
Permanent Monitoring Panels and Working Groups:

  • Biotechnology

  • Brain and Behaviour

  • Climatology

  • Defence Against Cosmic Objects

  • Desertification

  • Energy:

  • Floods and Extreme Weather Events

  • Information Security:

  • Limits of Development

  • Missile Proliferation

  • Mother & Child

  • Pollution

  • Motivations for Terrorism

  • Mitigation of Terrorist Acts

  • Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy

  • Water
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    Saturday, August 23, 2008

    Ring Road: What Happens to China’s Environment After the Olympics?

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    This Sunday, the closing ceremony of the Summer Olympics will bring an end to the 2008 Games—and to the sudden spotlight on China’s environmental somersaults during the “green” olympics.

    Back to work, you (AP)
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    Friday, August 22, 2008

    Zookeeper feeds baby squirrel in Bulgaria

    I know its off track but I couldn't' resist.
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    Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    Water Desalination: Freshwater from the Sea

    “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” So lamented Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ancient mariner 210 years ago. Today’s scientific advances in water desalination promise to edit that script into “and every drop to drink,” dramatically increasing our ability to transform sea water into fresh water and quench the thirst of 1.2 billion people facing shortages of water.

    Did You Know?

  • Ocean water contains about 35,000 parts per million of salt. Fresh water contains less than 1,000 parts per million.

  • The first scientific paper on desalting was published by Arab chemists in the eighth century.

  • Desalination/distillation is one of mankind's earliest forms of water treatment. In ancient times, many civilizations used this process on their ships to convert sea water into drinking water.

  • Today, desalination plants are used to convert sea water to drinking water on ships and in many arid regions of the world, and to treat water in other areas that is fouled by natural and unnatural contaminants.

  • The largest inland desalination plant in the world, the El Paso-Fort Bliss desalination plant, has a design capacity of approximately 27.5 MGD (30,800 acre-feet).

  • The average cost to produce 1 acre-foot of desalinated water from seawater ranges from approximately $800 to about $1,400.

  • The size of each reverse osmosis membrane pore used in the desalination
    process is about 1/100,000th the size of one human hair.

  • Listen to the Podcast

  • Thursday, August 14, 2008

    'beer goggles'

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    Strangers really do look sexier when you drink booze, science confirms

    For the first time, scientists have proven that "beer goggles" are real — other people really do look more attractive to us if we have been drinking.

    Surprisingly, the beer goggles effect was not limited to just the opposite sex among the ostensibly straight volunteers recruited for the study — they also rated people from their own sex as more attractive.

    After 15 minutes, the volunteers were shown photos of 40 other college students from both sexes. Both men and women who drank booze found these faces more attractive, "a roughly 10 percent increase in ratings of attractiveness," said researcher Marcus Munafo, an experimental psychologist at the University of Bristol in England.

    "Everyone knows about beer goggles," Munafo said. "But some of our results suggest that there's more going on than we might have thought."

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    Solar Panels by the Square Mile in California


    Matthew Wald has just written a news article showing the power of a guaranteed market to bring about large-scale construction of energy technologies that currently cannot compete with the status quo. Two photovoltaic power plants, in essence, are going to be built in California, covering a total of 12.5 square miles and amounting to 800 megawatts of generating capacity (although remember that the peak is only hit for a small portion of the day).

    Two California companies said Thursday that they would each build solar power plants that were 10 times bigger than the largest now in service, creating the first true utility-scale use of a technology now mostly confined to rooftop supplements to conventional power supplies.

    Photovoltaics eventually would need to be as cheap as paint or roof shingles to begin to make a serious dent in coal burning, many experts say.
    solar thermal plants
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    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    The Answer To The Energy Problem

    The change has taken Denmark nearly two decades to implement, but the most critical step was the introduction of smart- or net-metering, which required utilities to buy back electricity from consumers at 85% of the price. Denmark's success has convinced a growing number of policymakers and energy executives to follow suit.
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    Before John McCain and Barack Obama say another word about America's energy future, maybe they should go to Denmark.

    Denmark has done what other countries only dream of doing: achieved energy independence.

    How'd they do it? Distributed energy.

    Unlike traditional "centralized" systems, distributed energy relies on small power-generating technologies like solar panels or ultra-efficient natural-gas turbines built near the point of energy consumption to supplement or displace grid-distributed electricity.

    Consumers can not only draw power from the grid, but can feed power into it as well. For instance, homes equipped with solar-power panels could feed unused electricity back into the grid, adding to the total available supply.

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    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Wanted: ‘Young Eco-Geniuses’


    A few months ago, I encouraged Dot Earth contributors who wanted to eschew anonymity and the grayness of text comments to post video greetings. As a result, you’ve had a chance to “meet” Wang Suya, Jeff Huggins and others face to face. Some here think this may help sustain a civil, productive environment on the blog by reminding people that there are human beings out there amid the streams of electrons. Now you get to meet Paul Horan. Sitting amid lemon trees near Malibu, Calif., he offers up a reward to “deserving young eco-geniuses” who are willing to tell today’s ruling class how they define “what’s sustainable and what’s not.”

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    Sunday, August 10, 2008

    Green TV

    A broadband TV channel for environmental films bringing together films from a range of environmental organizations and independent filmmakers.

    Interesting site, worth the trip.

    Check out this video Proper Education.

    The video has a deep green message. It focuses on climate change and the issues surrounding global warming. Set in a London estate, it shows a gang of young people breaking into local flats, in order to switch appliances off standby, change light bulbs for energy efficient alternatives and place bricks in toilet cisterns.

    Thursday, August 7, 2008

    Pa. Turns its eyes Toward the Sun for Energy

    For a state with energy-production roots drilling deep into the coal mines and oil fields, the time has arrived for a heavenward look to try to harness the power of the sun.
    Gov. Rendell last week signed a bill here dedicating $650 million to the development of alternative and renewable energy, with a whopping 28 percent going to solar energy.

    Pa. turns its eyes toward the sun for energy
    For a state with energy-production roots drilling deep into the coal mines and oil fields, the time has arrived for a heavenward look to try to harness the power of the sun.

    > Gov. Rendell last week signed a bill here dedicating $650 million to the development of alternative and renewable energy, with a whopping 28 percent going to solar energy.

    > Environmentalists and energy-policy experts say the fund is a significant investment in clean energy and will boost Pennsylvania's profile as a leader in emerging energy technology.

    > The bill makes a historic investment in solar energy, an emerging technology that Rendell administration officials compare to the status of wind energy six years ago.

    > The legislation provides $100 million for solar power and water-heating systems on homes and small businesses, paying up to 35 percent of the installation cost. It also provides $80 million for larger, commercial-scale projects.

    > Kate Marks, energy program director with the National Conference of State Legislatures, called the fund a "leading investment in renewable energy" that demonstrates how states, not the federal government, are taking the lead.

    > Under the law, Pennsylvania will borrow $500 million over the next two years for grants and loans to attract businesses in the alternative-energy field and help existing companies improve energy efficiency.

    > A separate $150 million loan program will offer rebates to homeowners to weatherize their houses or install solar panels, and provide subsidies for low-income homeowners who need assistance with energy bills.

    > The fund is the second part of the administration's Energy Independence Strategy, which began in 2004 with the creation of new energy markets through mandates that utilities use alternative energy.

    > "We have got a bill that does so many things all in one time," Rendell said before signing it at a former auto-parts factory that will become a high-energy-efficiency residential and commercial development. "It's not just enough to create markets. We have to help young, fledgling businesses."

    > The administration estimates that since 2003, when Rendell took office, the state has invested $1 billion in alternative and renewable energy and as many as 3,500 jobs have been created.

    > Energy-policy experts could not identify a similar-size fund and said it was impossible to compare with investments in other states that may be larger but covered a number of years.

    > For instance, New Jersey has handed out $227 million in rebates to businesses and homeowners for solar systems in the last seven years.

    > The bill was passed as part of the state budget negotiations after a long-sought compromise with Senate Republicans, who opposed Rendell's original $850 million proposal because it depended on more borrowing and a monthly fee on utility bills.

    > Business interests object to such large government subsidization of what they call "unproven" technologies and the Rendell administration's apparent favoritism toward "green" companies. David N. Taylor, executive director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association, said his group had opposed the bill as "profoundly misguided."

    > "If we want to hasten the arrival of the next generation of energy breakthroughs, we need a pro-growth environment where research and development can take place," he said. "We can't mandate it into existence or subsidize it into existence."

    > Roy Kienitz, Rendell's deputy chief of staff, disputed the notion that wind and solar technologies were not proven, and said the targeted investment in those areas was part of Rendell's long-term vision to shift the state's economic focus.

    > "Pennsylvania was at its pinnacle 100 years ago with steel, oil and railroads, but employment in those industries has declined by 50 or 75 percent," Kienitz said. "We have to set our economic investment in finding growing industries like biotech and renewable energy."

    > Maureen Mulligan, a solar-industry lobbyist, called the fund the "major jump start the industry was looking for in order to invest in Pennsylvania."

    > The commercial funding, in particular, could be used to attract manufacturing that would create jobs and provide local products, which keeps shipping costs down.

    > Catherine Neil, one of the owners of Heatshed, a solar-installation company in Bucks County, said homeowners were hungry for the new technology.

    > A typical system providing half a household's electricity costs about $35,000.

    > Rebates at the upper limit of 35 percent would be $12,250. So with $100 million, that kitty could prompt more than 8,000 systems.

    > Philadelphia's Andrew Kleeman, with the solar-power company EOS Energy Solutions, agreed that the demand was there, but said he didn't think the $180 million was enough to give the industry the full-throttle boost it needed.

    > "I think it's a great step," Kleeman said. "The total dollars sound like a huge amount. It's really not."

    Where the Money Goes

    > The newly created $650 million energy fund will support conservation and spur renewable energy development. Among the projects:

    > $165 million for loans and grants for alternative and renewable energy projects for businesses and local governments.

    > $180 million for grants and loans for solar energy-related economic development, plus loans, grants and rebates to cover

    > 35 percent of the costs of residential consumers and small businesses for installing solar-energy technology.

    > $40 million to support start-up services to develop and implement energy-efficiency technology.

    > $25 million for wind energy and geothermal projects.

    > $25 million for residential and commercial "green" building projects.

    > $40 million for energy assistance for low-income residents.

    > $25 million for pollution-control technology for energy generators to meet state and federal standards.

    > $92.5 million to give homeowners and small businesses

    > 25 percent of the cost to buy and install energy-conservation devices and weatherize buildings and $5 million for an Energy Efficiency Loan Fund.

    > $50 million in tax credits of up to $1 million a year to develop alternative-energy projects.

    > SOURCE: Pennsylvania Governor's Office

    Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or

    Monday, August 4, 2008

    An Olympic Stadium Worth Remembering

    More than 90,000 spectators will stream through its gates on Friday for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games; billions are expected to watch the fireworks on television. At the center of it all is this dazzling stadium, which is said to embody everything from China’s muscle-flexing nationalism to a newfound cultural sophistication.
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    Follow the links for more.
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    Olympics Rehearsal

    Olympics Rehearsal

    A student from the Tagou martial arts school from Henan province practices in front of the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, at the Olympic Green in Beijing, July 16, 2008. More then 2,000 students from Tagou martial arts school will perform during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and have been training on the outskirts of Beijing for a year, local media reported. Picture taken July 16, 2008.
    (Donald Chan/Reuters )
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    'Water Cube'

    Looks awesome.
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    Photo taken on Jan. 28, 2008 shows the exterior view of the National Aquatics Center also known as
    Photo taken on Jan. 28, 2008 shows the exterior view of the National Aquatics Center also known as "Water Cube" in Beijing.


    With a capacity of 17,000 seats, the Water Cube will host swimming, diving, synchronized swimming competitions during this summer's Olympics.

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    Looks awesome.
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    Photo taken on Jan. 28, 2008 shows the exterior view of the National Aquatics Center also known as
    Photo taken on Jan. 28, 2008 shows the exterior view of the National Aquatics Center also known as "Water Cube" in Beijing. The National Aquatic Center was delivered for use on Monday
    after four years of construction. (Xinhua Photo/Luo Xiaoguang)
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    Wacky in a way only state-sponsored architecture can be is the National Swimming Center in Beijing, going up right next to another of H&DM's stadiums (no, not this one). The center is enclosed by what appears to be a wall whose structure is an irregular spaceframe (made to resemble the cellular pattern of soap bubbles) and is clad in what appears to be a frosted or patterened glass. All of this from a wonderful photo gallery at Structurae. The building was conceived by Australian-based PTW Architects. Structural design by Arup, of course.

    The Arup/PTW designed Water Cube plays on the geometry of water bubbles in a rectangular form.
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