What are 'green cities'?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What are 'green cities'?:
March 23rd, 2009 By E/The Environmental Magazine, Emagazine.com

Best described as a loose association of cities focused on sustainability, the emerging 'green cities movement' encompasses thousands of urban areas around the world all striving to lessen their environmental impacts by reducing waste, expanding recycling, lowering emissions, increasing housing density while expanding open space, and encouraging the development of sustainable local businesses.

Perhaps the archetypal green city is Curitiba, Brazil. When architect and urban planner Jamie Lerner became mayor in 1972, he quickly closed six blocks of the city's central business district to cars, delighting residents and business owners alike. Today the pedestrian-free zone is three times larger and serves as the heart of the bustling metropolis. Lerner also put in place a high-tech bus system, greatly reducing traffic, energy usage and pollution; the move also encouraged density around transit hubs and thus preserved open space in other areas that would have likely turned into suburbia. Today the bus system still goes strong, and three-quarters of the city's 2.2 million residents rely on it every day.

Another green cities leader is Rekyjavik, Iceland, where hydrogen-powered buses ply the streets and - geothermal and hydropower - provide the city's heat and electricity. London, Copenhagen, Sydney, Barcelona, Bogota and Bangkok, not to mention Sweden's Malmo, Ecuador's Bahia de Caraquez and Uganda's Kampala, also score high for their green attributes and attitudes.

Green cities abound in North America, too. In 2005, Portland, Oregon became the first U.S. city to meet reduction goals set forth in the landmark (if ill-fated) Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement forged to mitigate the threat of global warming. Seattle, Washington also committed to meeting Kyoto's goals and has persuaded 590 other U.S. cities to do the same under the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. And Vancouver, British Columbia draws 90 percent of its power from renewable sources while its metro area boasts some 200 parks and more than 18 miles of accessible waterfront.

San Francisco is a leader in green building, energy efficiency and alternative energy, and has been on the forefront of the battle to reduce plastic usage. Austin, Texas is fast becoming a world leader in solar equipment production and has made great strides in preserving open space. Chicago has invested hundreds of millions of dollars revitalizing its parks and neighborhoods, and has built some of America's most eco-friendly downtown buildings. It is also working to provide affordable clean power to low-income families. Of course, many would argue that New York City - with its densely packed housing, reliance on mass transit and walking, and recent green policy moves by Mayor Bloomberg - may be the greenest of all.

While there is no formal green cities organization, per se, many groups have sprung up to help urban areas achieve their sustainability goals. GreenCities Events, for one, hosts conferences around the U.S. at which local experts, policymakers and business leaders share ideas for greening their region. And International Sustainable Solutions takes urban planners, developers and elected officials on tours so they can check out some of the world's greenest cities to glean first-hand what works and what can be applied back home.


(c) 2009, E/The Environmental Magazine
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


City buses turn to sewage for 'clean' fuel

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

City buses turn to sewage for 'clean' fuel: "City buses turn to sewage for 'clean' fuel
March 22nd, 2009 by Pierre-Henry Deshayes

A picture taken on March 5, 2009 shows passengers aboard a biogas bus in the street of Stockholm. The city officials of Oslo plan to introduce as of 2010 buses that run on biofuels. Biofuels, extracted from wastewater is a ''clean'' energy, which is methane generated by fermenting sludge, and will come from the Bekkelaget sewage treatment plant which handles waste from 250,000 city dwellers.

Can the key to 'clean' energy be found down in the sewer? That's the idea in Oslo, where city officials soon plan to introduce buses that run on biofuels extracted from human waste.

As of 2010, the new buses are due to start plying the streets of the Norwegian capital.

'It's a win-win situation: It's carbon neutral, it hardly pollutes the environment, it's less noisy and its endlessly renewable,' says Ole Jakob Johansen, one of the people in charge of the project at Oslo city hall.

The , which is methane generated by fermenting sludge, will come from the Bekkelaget treatment plant which handles waste from 250,000 city dwellers.

"By going to the bathroom, a person produces the equivalent of eight litres (2.1 gallons) of diesel per year. That may not seem like a lot, but multiplied by 250,000 people, that is enough to operate 80 buses for 100,000 kilometres (62,000 miles) each," Johansen says.

Compared to diesel, biomethane is a giant green step forward.

In addition to being carbon neutral, it emits 78 percent less nitrogen oxide and 98 percent fewer fine particles -- two causes of respiratory illnesses -- and is 92 percent less noisy.

Even the price is advantageous, says Johansen.

All included, the cost of producing biofuel equivalent to one litre of diesel comes to 0.72 euros (98 cents), while diesel at the pump in Norway currently costs more than 1.0 euro.

"The fuel is less expensive but the cost of the new buses and their maintenance is higher. In total, it's about 15 percent more expensive," notes Anne-Merete Andersen of Ruter, the operator of Oslo's .

Contrary to first generation bio-ethanol, made from grains and plants, biomethane has the added advantage of not impacting food supplies, nor does it require fertilisation or deplete precious water resources.

are delighted.

"We've been waiting for this for a long time. It's extremely good for the climate and also for the quality of urban life," beams Olaf Brastad of the Bellona environmental organisation.

"I see absolutely no downsides. On the contrary, it is an optimal way of using a renewable energy that has always been there, just waiting to be exploited," he adds.

The initiative, if extended to Oslo's second waste treatment plant and complemented with biofuels made from food waste, could provide enough fuel for all of Oslo's 350 to 400 buses.

"If our entire fleet switched to biomethane, carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced by around 30,000 tonnes per year," according to Ruter.

Biofuel buses have already been introduced in several cities, including the French city of Lille and Stockholm, Sweden, where 70 such buses are already in service.

"There were some teething problems with the introduction, but now that those problems have been resolved we see that we have a fuel that works well," Sara Anderson, a biofuels specialist for Stockholm's public transport system SL, told AFP.

And, for those who remain sceptical, Johansen stressed that "there is absolutely no smell."

(c) 2009 AFP


Portuguese wave-power snake dead in the water

Portuguese wave-power snake dead in the water: "Portuguese wave-power snake dead in the water
March 24th, 2009 by Anne Le Coz

An off-shore electricity generator based on wave power off of Portugal?s coast. Opened in September as a world 'first' in producing electricity from waves, a pioneering installation here is dead in the water having functioned for only a few weeks in a stormy process of research and development

Opened in September as a world 'first' in producing electricity from waves, a pioneering installation here is dead in the water having functioned for only a few weeks in a stormy process of research and development.

First it had to be taken out of service and dismantled because of technical problems. And now one of the main investors in the project, which had a start-up cost of nine million euros (12.3 million dollars), has gone bankrupt.

The structure, five kilometres (three miles) out to sea off Povoa do Varzim in northern Portugal, was put into service officially in September by Economy Minister Manual Pinho after three years of development.

"The first project in the world for the commercial exploitation of wave energy." With these words the minister launched the so-called "wave park." A frigate of the Portuguese navy stood by to honour the event.

The installation has modest generating capacity however, being capable of producing 2.25 megawatts or the output equivalent to that of one wind turbine.

It comprises three units built like articulated sea snakes which lie semi-submerged and undulate with the movement of the waves to generate current.

The three serpent-like units were taken ashore several times for so-called "checks" but since November they have been lying immobile in the northern port of Leixoes.

"There was a recurrent problem with the movements of the hydraulic screws in the three machines, and this is why they have been removed from deep water," Rui Barros, who is one of those in charge of the Agucadoura wave park told AFP.

But, on inspection, "we saw that the problem was serious, generalised, and not incidental."

The main partner in the park is Energias de Portugal. A senior executive in the group, Jorge Cruz Morais, said: "The machines had a hard winter in maritime conditions, and they have been brought ashore for repairs. Do not forget that this is a project."

However, several sources involved in the scheme said that beyond the technical failings, the very existence of the installation is now threatened by the bankruptcy of Australian investment group Babcock & Brown.

The Australian firm owns 35 percent of a consortium called Ondas de Portugal, which was created to develop the system. EDP owns 45 percent of the entity and Portuguese electrical engineering group Efacec owns 20 percent.

An unnamed source in the Australian company, quoted by the website of the Portuguese weekly magazine Expresso, said: "It is not a profitable project. It will become so by growing in size. But the current phase is compromised unless a new partner can be found."

Meanwhile, British company Pelamis Wave Power, the partner for technology in the project, announced in February that it had signed a contract with EON-UK, a subsidiary of EON, the leading energy group in Germany, to develop a similar project in Scotland using a new generation of power converters.

Cruz Morais said that EDP was also considering using this new version or "two or three other technologies" which exist.

EDP was still ready to invest in wave power despite "perfectly normal setbacks in a process of research," he said.

(c) 2009 AFP


Agencies Divide Alternative-Energy Oversight Offshore

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Agencies Divide Alternative-Energy Oversight Offshore
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 18, 2009; Page A03

The Interior Department and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will divide responsibility for regulating offshore alternative energy sources such as wind and wave power, ending an interagency turf battle.

In a joint statement, the agencies said they will draw up "a short Memorandum of Understanding" that gives Interior the right to decide on wind power proposals in federal waters, while FERC will oversee wave, tidal and ocean-current projects. Officials had quarreled for a year and a half over whether Interior's Minerals Management Service would add jurisdiction over water-powered projects to its supervision of offshore windmill development.

"Our renewable energy is too important for bureaucratic turf battles to slow down our progress," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement yesterday. "This agreement will help sweep aside red tape so that our country can capture the great power of wave, tidal, wind and solar power off our coasts."

Interior oversees offshore oil drilling as well as dredging of sand and gravel for commercial purposes, while FERC has traditionally handled wave, tidal and ocean-current applications. Last fiscal year, the commission received 25 such applications, which are pending. It has gotten two this year, and so far it has approved a river-current project in Hastings, Minn., and a tidal venture in Makah Bay, Wash.

On Monday, Salazar told reporters in a conference call that the tug of war could hamper the new administration's efforts to expand renewable-energy capacity. "If we don't resolve the jurisdictional issues between FERC and the Department of Interior," he said, "we are not going to be able to move forward in the development of our offshore renewable energy resources."

Renewable-energy entrepreneurs, especially those in the wind sector, hailed the agreement as a way to level the playing field for competing projects. The Minerals Management Service subjects permitting applications to a detailed review that typically takes two years, while FERC can grant permits much more quickly.

"The most important thing is to make sure all the renewable technologies receive fair treatment and equitable treatment going forward," said James Lanard, who heads strategic planning and policy for Bluewater Wind, a New Jersey firm developing two projects offshore of New Jersey and Delaware.

In the past, Lanard added, wind companies had feared that wave and ocean current entrepreneurs would "tie up large swaths of the ocean" by getting an operating permit from FERC: "It's sort of been a race to the courthouse, a race to the permitting agency."

Interior and other "relevant federal land and resource agencies" will still be able to weigh in on hydropower licenses, the agencies said, though the commission "will have the primary responsibility to manage the licensing" of wave, tidal and ocean-current projects.


Self-Heating Ecological House

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Self-Heating Ecological House: "March 11th, 2009

Ecological House We come across scores of people unmindful of giving back to nature what they are taking and consuming the resources of nature, haphazardly. But we also come across a privileged few who care about environment and their surroundings and they believe in consuming less and utilizing the resources of nature intelligently. Veljko Milkovic belongs to that rare category of people who believe in and practice clean and green living. He has also written a book known as “Ecological Houses” discussing the details of self-heating sod houses.

Veljko Milkovic was instrumental in building ten sod houses in Serbia, and the first one was constructed in 1979. The experience tells us that one can save 85% in heating, 30% in lightning, and 18-40% in building materials. As a side effect, tenants are not complaining and happy with the accommodation! The over-ground house costs you more in terms of material and space. As we all are familiar that a traditional house requires deep foundation, more space for heating installation and heating material. But a self heating ecological house is almost free from all these necessary vices! An ecological house has a stratum of soil; this soil shields the house from extremes of weather. They don’t get too cold during winters and too hot during summer. This soil layer also protects the walls of the house from wear and tear or erosion.

A self heating ecological house’s strength lays in reflecting surfaces i.e. surfaces that reflect direct and diffuse radiation of the Sun (around 80%). Glossy coats (of lacquer and paint), aluminum foils and metal sheets are used on hard surface for reflecting surfaces. Milk-white paint is also good enough for this purpose since there is not much diffusion loss because the reflecting surfaces are positioned next to the window. Special consideration is given to the reflecting surfaces. They are not only cost-effective and act as heating agent but they also increase the amount of sunlight entering the area. The Eco house in Novi Sad (Serbia), saves up to 30% in lightning. The upper reflecting surface is built into the eaves of the object and is fixed. The lower one is positioned under the window and acts as a shutter.

The greatest experience from living in a self heating ecological house can be peace of mind and a great feeling that you are living light on this planet! According to Aleksandar Nikolic, “The owners of self-heating solar sod houses or eco houses do not have to worry about the heating material, they are protected from noise and vibrations, which places this solution amongst best achievements in the world.”

Please visit the website for more information.

What do you think of this house concept?


Europe's Climate Satellite Fails to Leave Pad | Universe Today

Monday, March 16, 2009

Europe's Climate Satellite Fails to Leave Pad | Universe Today: "Europe's Climate Satellite Fails to Leave Pad

Written by Anne Minard

Europe's Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) seems to be stuck on the pad.

The climate change satellite was expected to launch out of Russia at 14:21 GMT (10:21 EDT) today, from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. The weather was fine and mission managers were optimistic with seconds to liftoff — and then, everything froze. With seven seconds left on the countdown clock, an unexpected hold went into place and ESA broadcasters simply stopped talking.

Update, 12:30 p.m. EDT: The ESA has announced that launch failed when the doors of the launch service tower did not open. The tower was held in position and did not move back as required for a launch. An investigation is under way, and the agency intends to try again tomorrow at the same time (15:21 CET; 14:21 GMT; 10:21 a.m. EDT).

GOCE is the first of a new family of ESA satellites, called Earth Explorers, designed to study our planet and its environment in order to improve our knowledge and understanding of Earth-system processes and their evolution, to characterize the challenges of global climate change.

The satellite is supposed to launch into a Sun-synchronous, near-circular polar orbit by a Russian Rockot vehicle – a converted SS-19 ballistic missile. Its specific mission is to map Earth’s gravity field with unprecedented accuracy, providing insight into ocean circulation, sea-level change, climate change, volcanism and earthquakes.

GOCE has been undergoing preparations for launch since it was taken out of storage around three weeks ago. Launch campaign activities included a series of mechanical and electrical tests, mating to the Upper Stage and finally encapsulation in the launcher fairing. A video of the anticipated fairing separation was produced pre-launch, and is available here.

Today’s go-ahead followed a successful countdown rehearsal conducted by ESA’s Mission Control Team, the Russian Mission Control Centre and the international tracking station network on Friday.

"We've been in this room for many hours and many days in the past. We want to do the real thing now," said Paolo Laberinti, head of verification and testing, just moments before the seemingly foiled launch.

This isn't the first time GOCE has encountered problems. The craft had to stand down from launch in September 2008 when problems were discovered with the guidance and navigation subsystems on the Russian Breeze KM rocket. GOCE had to be de-mated from the rocket and brought back into the clean room.

Stay tuned for updates to this post as the ESA releases details about the failure.

Source: ESA


Australian oil spill '10 times worse' than thought

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Australian oil spill '10 times worse' than thought: "Australian oil spill '10 times worse' than thought
March 14th, 2009

The slick has contaminated a 60km (40 mile) stretch of the region's beaches

Council workers use heavy machinery to remove contaminated sand in Coolum, Queensland. Dozens of popular tourist beaches on Australia's northeast coast have been declared a disaster zone, with their once-pristine sands fouled by a massive oil and chemical slick.

An oil spill polluting popular tourist beaches on Australia's northeast coast is 10 times worse than originally reported, according to the state government.

Dozens of beaches have been declared disaster zones after they were fouled by a massive oil slick spilled from the Hong Kong-flagged ship Pacific Adventurer in wild seas on Wednesday.

Initial estimates put the spill at 20-30 tonnes of oil but 'it is now apparent that it was about 230 tonnes,' Queensland state's Deputy Premier Paul Lucas told public radio.

About 60 kilometres (almost 40 miles) of beaches have been hit by the oil, with Moreton Island about 40 kilometres off Brisbane city the worst affected.

he crisis was sparked when high seas whipped up by Cyclone Hamish toppled 31 containers of ammonium nitrate fertiliser from the ship's deck.

As they fell, the containers punctured the hull, before taking 620 tonnes of the explosive chemical to the floor.

The ship's owners, Swire Shipping, said an inspection of the hull by a diver on Friday had found that the damage was greater than initially believed and "it is likely that substantially more oil has spilled than the earlier estimate".

Swire faces 1.5 million dollars (977,000 US dollars) in fines if found guilty of environmental or maritime breaches

"The company very much regrets the environmental impact caused as a consequence of the vessel being caught in Cyclone Hamish," it said.

"The company and its insurers will meet all their responsibilities."

Swire had to launch a separate clean-up effort Friday after the ship docked and leaked more oil into the river running through Brisbane, Queensland's capital.

Apart from the , experts fear the fertiliser could cause , suffocate fish and kill natural habitats.

Moreton Bay, a marine sanctuary, is home to a range of as well as turtles, dolphins and pelicans.

Hundreds of people are working to clean the beaches and save affected wildlife.

(c) 2009 AFP


New Company Looks to Produce Space Based Solar Power Within a Decade | Universe Today

Saturday, March 14, 2009

New Company Looks to Produce Space Based Solar Power Within a Decade | Universe Today: "New Company Looks to Produce Space Based Solar Power Within a Decade

Written by Nancy Atkinson

Is space-based solar power (SBSP) a technology whose time has come? The concept and even some of the hardware for harnessing energy from the sun with orbiting solar arrays has been around for some time. But the biggest challenge for making the concept a reality, says entrepreneur Peter Sage of Space Energy, Inc., is that SBSP has never been commercially viable. But that could be changing. Space Energy, Inc. has assembled an impressive team of scientists, engineers and business people, putting together what Sage calls 'a rock-solid commercial platform' for their company. And given the current looming issues of growing energy needs and climate change, Space Energy, Inc. could be in the right place at the right time.

"Although it's a very grandiose vision, it makes total sense," Sage told Universe Today. "This is an inevitable technology; it's going to happen. If we can put solar panels in space where the sun shines 24 hours a day, if we have a safe way of transmitting the energy to Earth and broadcasting it anywhere, that is a serious game changer." If everything falls into place for this company, they could be producing commercially available SBSP within a decade.

The basic concept of SBSP is having solar cells in space collecting energy from sun, then converting the energy into a low intensity microwave beam, sending it down to Earth where it is collected on a rectenna, and then fed into the power grid to provide electricity. Almost 200 million gigawatts of solar energy is beamed towards the Earth every second, which is more energy than our civilization has used since the dawn of the electrical age. We only need a way to harness that energy and make it usable.

Space Energy, Inc.'s vision is to help create an energy-independent world, and improve the lives of millions of people by bringing a source of safe, clean energy to the planet from space. They are looking to become the world's leading, and perhaps the first, SBSP enterprise.

"The biggest challenge for SBSP is making it work on a commercial level in terms of bottom line," said Sage, "i.e., putting together a business case that would allow the enormous infrastructure costs to be raised, the plan implemented, and then electricity sold at a price that is reasonable. I say 'reasonable' and not just 'competitive' because we're getting into a time where selling energy only on a price basis isn't going to be the criteria for purchase."

Currently, there are times in the US when electricity is sold wholesale for close to a dollar a kilowatt during peak usage or times of emergency when power needs to be shipped around the national grid. Sage said SBSP will never be cost comparable with the current going rate of 6 or 7 cents a kilowatt due to the enormous set-up costs.

"We believe we can get it to a reasonable price, a fair market price as the demand for energy increases," Sage said.

A huge energy gap is looming for our world, and that too, will change the energy game.

According to a white paper written by aerospace engineer James Michael Snead, "The End of Easy Energy and What Are We Going To Do About It," in order to meet the world's projected increase in energy needs by 2100 which likely will be at least three times what is being produced today, today's sustainable energy production must expand by a factor of over 25. Under that scenario, even if the US were to build 70 new nuclear plants, add the equivalent of 15 more Hoover Dams, expand the geothermal capacity by 50 times what it is today, install over a million large land or sea wind turbines covering 150,000 square miles, build 60,000 square miles of commercial solar voltaic farms, and on top of that convert 1.3 billion dry tons of food mass to bio fuels, still only 30% of the power needs would be filled by 2100, or perhaps even earlier.

"Looking at every single technology we can as a civilization to try and fill the energy gap in a clean and resourceful, sustainable way, technologies like SBSP have to be made to work," said Sage.

He says this is an important point. "We're not setting ourselves up to compete with coal, or nuclear, or ground based solar or wind. I don't want to pick a fight with any of those industries saying that we're trying to take a piece of their pie. What we're saying is that right now, from a responsible perspective in terms of being a good steward for the environment, we need to look at every single source of energy that we can get our hands on, primarily green, and develop it regardless, because we're going to need it. SBSP is one of the few forms of energy that has the ability to be base-load, i.e., 24-7, and it's the only form of energy that can be broadcast on demand."

The first phase of Space Energy, Inc.'s plan is to launch a small prototype satellite into low Earth orbit. "This will help validate the numbers we are speculating on at this point, but also validate several different aspects of what SBSP can do," said Sage. "From a successful demonstration, we are hoping to close power purchase agreements with one of several entities we are in discussions with at present. And on the strength of that we should be able to put the first commercial satellite in orbit."

With regards to the timetable, Sage was hesitant to commit to a schedule. "As timetables go, everything needs to be flexible, but we are looking to close the financing for the demonstrator during the first quarter of this year (2009). The demonstrator is a 24 to 36 month project and, from there, we will start the commercial build-out of the main satellite, which could take up to four years to be operational."

That's an aggressive schedule. But Sage said since their plan is being driven from a commercial basis, they can run their operation differently than government agencies who don't necessarily operate with the bottom line in mind. "Our board members and entrepreneurial group certainly have a lot of experience running commercial entities. We know what we're doing. We're in a market that we hope to pioneer, and everyone feels confident that we have what it takes. We certainly have the passion, vision and enthusiasm to make this happen."

What are the biggest hurdles to overcome in this project? "If you would have asked me that question a few months ago," Sage replied, "I would have said a combination of meeting the right people who could understand the vision and scope of what it is what we're doing, and raising the initial financing for the demonstrator. Those hurdles, at this point, really seem to be taken care of. The more we have our technical teams talk with investors, the more people understand that we're real and this isn't some sort of Star Trek giggle factor. Right now, with the level of due diligence that's been done not only on SBSP itself, but with ourselves as a commercially viable entity, we're on the forefront of many people's agenda in terms of how to move this forward. We see a straight path to making this a reality."

Sage said no new technology is needed for the demonstrator, which will be a working, small prototype, but challenges do remain to move forward beyond that. "Obviously, there are technical challenges because something of this scale has never been done before. We know we can do wireless power transmission, as NASA did some pretty significant tests on this in the 1970s. We know the physics of wireless power transmission, and how everything should work from geostationary orbit."

While the demonstrator won't be of any scale where energy could be sold commercially, it would be a proof of concept.

"Once we've demonstrated that we can wirelessly beam power accurately to the ground in a safe, controlled, effective manner, and in a way that can be metered and measured," said Sage, "we will have taken a massive step forward to prove that SBSP is a technology of the future that has the potential to really fill a gap in the world's energy needs."

Some have equated developing SBSP to what was accomplished with the Apollo program.

"There are so many positive spinoffs to SBSP as a game changing foundation of space commerce, that just by addressing a lot of the challenges that lay ahead, we will be blazing a trail for many other opportunities for a low earth orbit economy," Sage added.
A rectenna on Earth collects microwaved energy from space solar collectors. Image courtesy Mafic Studios.

A rectenna on Earth collects microwaved energy from space solar collectors. Image courtesy Mafic Studios.

Space Energy, Inc. recently attended the World Future Energy Summit and has been overwhelmed with the response.

"We've had discussions with many different entities, both governmental and private, in the Middle East; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Dubai, many areas around Europe, and many of the world's top investment firms. I don't think we're going to be short of people that will want to support us." Sage added that in general, SBSP has strong support in Washington DC, and that SBSP recently was added to a list of technologies being studied by the Obama administration.

SBSP has ability to literally change the course of history, and impact the quality of life for people everywhere. Sage said this project is an entrepreneurs' dream.

"I speak for our entire team here, we're not just focused on how much money are we going to make," Sage said. "We're focused on the fact that this is an inevitable technology and someone is going to do it. Right now we're the best shot. We're also focused on the fact that, according to every scenario we've analyzed, the world needs space based solar power, and it needs it soon, as well as the up-scaling of just about every other source of renewable energy that we can get our hands on."

"Space based solar power will happen whether we crack cold fusion, or whether we suddenly go to 80% efficiency on ground based solar power (currently its only at 50%)," Sage continued. "It has to happen based on the nature on what it is. With that in mind, I've been willing to put everything I have on the line to be able to make this work, and that was three years, ago. To see how far we've come in the past six to eight months has been amazing."

"This is going to happen."


Liquid Battery Offers Promising Solar Energy Storage Technique

Friday, March 13, 2009

Liquid Battery Offers Promising Solar Energy Storage Technique: "Liquid Battery Offers Promising Solar Energy Storage Technique
March 6th, 2009 by Lisa Zyga Liquid Battery

The all-liquid battery: discharged (left), charging (middle), and charged (right). Molten magnesium (blue) is the top electrode, in the middle is the electrolyte (green), and molten antimony (yellow) is the bottom electrode. Image credit: Arthur Mount.

(PhysOrg.com) -- One of the biggest challenges currently facing large-scale solar energy technology is finding an effective way to store the energy, which is essential for using the electricity at night or on cloudy days.

Recently, researchers from MIT have designed a new kind of battery that, unlike conventional batteries, is made of all-liquid active materials. Donald Sadoway, a materials chemistry professor at MIT, and his team have fabricated prototypes of the liquid battery, and have demonstrated that the materials can quickly absorb large amounts of electricity, as required for solar energy storage.

"No one had been able to get their arms around the problem of energy storage on a massive scale for the power grid," says Sadoway. "We're literally looking at a battery capable of storing the grid."

The battery consists of three layers of liquids: two electrode liquids on the top and bottom (electrodes are usually solid in conventional batteries), and an electrolyte liquid in the middle. In the researchers' first prototype, the electrodes were molten metals - magnesium on the top and antimony on the bottom - while the electrolyte was a molten salt such as sodium sulfide. In later prototypes, the researchers investigated using other materials for improved performance.

Since each liquid has a different density, the liquids automatically form the three distinct layers. When charging, the solid container holding the liquids collects electrons from exterior solar panels or another power supply, and later, for discharging, the container carries the electrons away to the electrical grid to be used as electricity.

As electrons flow into the battery cell, magnesium ions in the electrolyte gain electrons and form magnesium metal, rising to form the upper molten magnesium electrode. At the same time, antimony ions in the electrolyte lose electrons, and sink to form the lower molten antimony electrode. At this point, the battery is fully charged, since the battery has thick electrode layers and a small layer of electrolyte. To discharge the electrical current, the process is reversed, and the metal atoms become ions again.

As Sadoway explained in a recent article in MIT's Technology Review, the liquid battery is a promising candidate for solar energy storage for several reasons. For one thing, it costs less than a third of the cost of today's batteries, since the materials are inexpensive and the design allows for simple manufacturing. Further, the liquid battery has a longer lifetime than conventional batteries, since there are no solid active materials to degrade. The liquid battery is also useful in a wide range of locations compared with other proposed solar storage methods, such as pumping water. Most importantly, the liquid battery's electrodes can operate at electrical currents tens of times higher than any previous battery, making it capable of quickly absorbing large amounts of electricity.

The researchers hope to commercialize the liquid battery in the next five years. As Sadoway explained, connecting the batteries into a giant battery pack to supply electricity for New York City would require nearly 60,000 square meters of land. Such a battery pack could store energy from enormous solar farms, which would replace today's power plants and transmission lines as they become old.

via: Technology Review


Atmospheric 'sunshade' could reduce solar power generation

Atmospheric 'sunshade' could reduce solar power generation:
March 11th, 2009

The world's largest solar power facility, located near Kramer Junction, Calif., consists of five Solar Electric Generating Stations and covers more than 1,000 acres. (Credit: Department of Energy/National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

The concept of delaying global warming by adding particles into the upper atmosphere to cool the climate could unintentionally reduce peak electricity generated by large solar power plants by as much as one-fifth, according to a new NOAA study. The findings appear in this week's issue of Environmental Science and Technology.

'Injecting particles into the stratosphere could have unintended consequences for one alternative energy source expected to play a role in the transition away from fossil fuels,' said author Daniel Murphy, a scientist at NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.

The Earth is heating up as fossil-fuel burning produces carbon dioxide, the primary heat-trapping gas responsible for man-made . To counteract the effect, some geoengineering proposals are designed to slow global warming by shading the Earth from .

Among the ideas being explored is injecting small particles into the upper atmosphere to produce a climate cooling similar to that of large , such as Mt. Pinatubo's in 1991. Airborne sulfur hovering in the stratosphere cooled the Earth for about two years following that eruption.

Murphy found that particles in the stratosphere reduce the amount and change the nature of the sunlight that strikes the Earth. Though a fraction of the incoming sunlight bounces back to space (the cooling effect), a much larger amount becomes "diffuse" or .

On average, for every watt of sunlight the particles reflect away from the Earth, another three watts of direct sunlight are converted to diffuse sunlight. Large power-generating solar plants that concentrate sunlight for depend solely on direct sunlight and cannot use diffuse light.

Murphy verified his calculations using long-term NOAA observations of direct and diffuse sunlight before and after the 1991 eruption.

After the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, peak power output of Solar Electric Generating Stations in California, the largest collective of plants in the world, fell by up to 20 percent, even though the from the eruption reduced total sunlight that year by less than 3 percent.

"The sensitivity of concentrating solar systems to stratospheric particles may seem surprising," said Murphy. "But because these systems use only direct sunlight, increasing stratospheric particles has a disproportionately large effect on them."

Nine Solar Electric Generating Stations operate in California and more are running or are under construction elsewhere in the world. In sunny locations such systems, which use curved mirrors or other concentrating devices, generate electricity at a lower cost than conventional photovoltaic, or solar, cells.

Flat photovoltaic and hot water panels, commonly seen on household roofs, use both diffuse and direct sunlight. Their energy output would decline much less than that from concentrating systems.

Even low-tech measures to balance a home's energy, such as south-facing windows for winter heat and overhangs for summer shade, would be less effective if direct sunlight is reduced.

Source: NOAA


Quantum Dots Could Boost Solar Cell Efficiency

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Quantum Dots Could Boost Solar Cell Efficiency: "Quantum Dots Could Boost Solar Cell Efficiency
March 11th, 2009 By Kelen Tuttle

(PhysOrg.com) -- The transition to environmentally benign energy sources is one of the most significant challenges of the 21st century. Solar power, which uses sunlight to generate electricity, is one promising source. It has many benefits: sunlight is free; operating solar cells emits no greenhouse gasses; and solar power can be generated almost anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, today's solar energy technologies are inefficient, and thus significantly more expensive than traditional power sources. But hope is on the horizon. Recent results from the joint SLAC-Stanford PULSE Institute for Ultrafast Energy Science may help increase efficiency more than previously thought possible.

'This research is one step toward making solar cells more efficient,' said PULSE researcher Kelly Gaffney. The finding, he continued, shows there is a significant difference between what's on the market now and what's possible.

In their recent experiment, PULSE researchers sought to confirm results of a Los Alamos National Laboratory study in which researchers observed one photon of light generating more than one electron of electricity. Scientists previously assumed that one photon could excite exactly one electron, limiting the efficiency of solar cells.

Both experiments used so-called "." At a few billionths of a meter across, these spheres are made of only a few thousand . On this scale, matter acts very differently from matter in bulk form; forcing all of the atoms' into a very small area causes the electrons in a quantum dot to interact more and increases the strength of those interactions.

Over the past five years, several research groups used quantum dots in their attempts to recreate the Los Alamos findings, but without success. "There's been a lot of controversy as to whether this [multiple excitation] actually occurs," Gaffney said. "Not everyone agreed that it's even real."

Working with researchers at PULSE, Stanford University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Gaffney used a slightly different experimental method to confirm that a single photon can indeed excite more than one electron in a quantum dot.

The researchers found that the solar cell process could be as much as one third more efficient than previously thought if solar cells used quantum dots instead of solid bulk materials. For bulk materials, the one-to-one ratio still holds; one photon excites only one electron, with any additional energy radiating away as heat. In a quantum dot, this ratio could range from one-to-one to one-to-three, depending on the color of the sunlight.

The next step in the quest for efficient is to build a solar cell that uses quantum dots to realize this efficiency.

"No one has done that yet; that research is just getting started," Gaffney said. "It's a very difficult science and engineering problem, but the opportunity is significant."

Provided by SLAC


Stimulating Renewable Energy

Stimulating Renewable Energy: "Buried in the massive “stimulus bill” working its way through Congress this week are details that could significantly alter the markets for solar and wind energy. And the details matter.

After a decade of remarkable growth, both the solar and wind industries have been significantly impacted by the recession and credit crash in financial markets. So 2009 is starting out as a more challenging year for renewable energy industries. There are fewer parties with appropriate tax appetite to invest equity in large projects under current tax laws. And renewable projects have not been immune to the problems in credit markets.

Whatever your views may be on the stimulus bill, it passed. Energy sections in the bill will have important implications for renewables. The Senate and House versions are very different though.

Probably of most significance, the House version has provisions to monetize the value of renewable energy tax credits through DOE grants in lieu of the current tax advantages. That provision is not included in the Senate version that still relies exclusively on manipulations of the tax code.

It’s past time to have transparency in the way governments intervene in energy markets. Incumbent energy sources benefit from decades of huge and continuing complex subsidies that skew markets in their favor. But the vast majority of citizens favor renew"

This post was written by Fred Unger on February 10, 2009
Posted Under: Renewable Energy Tax Credits, US Legislation


Geologists map rocks to soak CO2 from air

Geologists map rocks to soak CO2 from air: "A new report by scientists at Columbia University's Earth Institute and the US Geological Survey points to an abundant supply of carbon-trapping rock in the US that could be used to help stabilize global warming."



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