Tag Archives | Energy

Solar-Powered Plane Flies Over Mediterranean

Solar Impulse

Photo: Matth1 (CC)

Via the Telegraph:

The Solar Impulse took off on the world’s first cross-Mediterranean flight from an airfield in western Switzerland and is scheduled to make a stop-over in Spain after a 20-hour flight, before finally flying to the Moroccan capital Rabat on Monday.

Lessons learned on this fight will help prepare the pilots for an attempt at a round-the-world journey. “Today it’s the last rehearsal for the flight around the world in 2014. For Andre and myself as pilots and for the entire team, the mission control team and technical team”, Solar Impulse founder, Bertrand Piccard, told Reuters. Pilot Andre Borschberg, who was flying the aircraft to Madrid, found it “rewarding” that the plane flies only using solar power.

“Well the most fun is to be able to go up to 9,000 metres with solar energy, and the more I will fly during the day, the more energy I will collect even in the batteries, so that’s very impressing, very different”…

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Secrets of the First Practical Artificial Leaf

LeafSolar power is getting less and less expensive. Via ScienceDaily:

A detailed description of development of the first practical artificial leaf — a milestone in the drive for sustainable energy that mimics the process, photosynthesis, that green plants use to convert water and sunlight into energy — appears in the ACS journal Accounts of Chemical Research. The article notes that unlike earlier devices, which used costly ingredients, the new device is made from inexpensive materials and employs low-cost engineering and manufacturing processes.

Daniel G. Nocera points out that the artificial leaf responds to the vision of a famous Italian chemist who, in 1912, predicted that scientists one day would uncover the “guarded secret of plants.” The most important of those, Nocera says, is the process that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. The artificial leaf has a sunlight collector sandwiched between two films that generate oxygen and hydrogen gas.

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“Too Much Magic” With James Howard Kunstler

“Too Much Magic” With James Howard Kunstler | The DisinfoCast with Matt Staggs: Episode 07

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Social critic and peak oil provocateur James Howard Kunstler is on The DisinfoCast to discuss his upcoming book Too Much Magic: Technology, Wishful Thinking and the Fate of the Nation. Kunstler believes that the end of cheap, readily available oil is very near, and with it the collapse of the industrial society as we know it. According to Kunstler, alternative energy sources and other technological solutions are just wishful thinking, and the future that awaits us may very well resemble our past.

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Wind Turbines That Learn Like Humans

Wind FarmVia ScienceDaily:

Depending on the weather, wind turbines can face whispering breezes or gale-force gusts. Such variable conditions make extracting the maximum power from the turbines a tricky control problem, but a collaboration of Chinese researchers may have found a novel solution in human-inspired learning models.

Most turbines are designed to produce maximum allowable power once winds reach a certain speed, called the rated speed. In winds above or below the rated speed, control systems can make changes to the turbine system, such as modifying the angle of the blades or the electromagnetic torque of the generator.

These changes help keep the power efficiency high in low winds and protect the turbine from damage in high winds. Many control systems rely on complex and computationally expensive models of the turbine’s behavior, but the Chinese group decided to experiment with a different approach.

The researchers developed a biologically inspired control system, described in the American Institute of Physics’ Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, that used memory of past control experiences and their outcomes to generate new actions.

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With All This Natural Gas, Who Needs Oil?

National Grid LNG TankAlexandra Marks says there are limits to how far the US can tilt toward a natural gas economy, in the Christian Science Journal:

Bob Mann leans against his wife’s 2006 Volkswagen Jetta in his tool-packed garage. The mechanic and inventor has just converted the car, which is the color of a ripe crab apple, to run on natural gas. He shakes his head.

“It’s a no-brainer. We could jump-start the economy overnight, put 100,000 people to work – easy – and help the environment,” says Mr. Mann, a former Volkswagen technician who’s as comfortable talking about global energy solutions as he is around a socket wrench.

From his suburban home in a wooded neighborhood once known for its shipbuilding prowess, Mann is crafting automotive gadgets for a future that many believe could help solve the nation’s long-intractable energy woes – one fueled mostly by natural gas. During the past five years, Mann has converted more than 10 cars to run on compressed natural gas, in addition to gasoline, using a device he invented, the “CNG Fogger,” which boosts the vehicles’ mileage.

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As Ice Cap Melts, Militaries Vie for Arctic Edge

KV Svalbard

Photo: Marcusroos (CC)

Via Common Dreams:

While the corporate media continues to keep alive a false narrative that the world’s scientists are still divided over global climate change — new reports show the military has moved beyond that debate. The Associated Press reports today that “to the world’s military leaders, the debate over climate change is long over.”

Instead, military planners from a number of nations that border the Arctic are gearing up for a new cold war – a battle for control of the vast treasure of mineral and oil resources and control of new, strategic sea lanes. As the ice cap melts, the war for the North Pole is heating up.

Greenpeace reported last year: “WikiLeaks releases … have shown the Arctic oil rush is not just a threat to the environment and our climate, but also to peace.”

“The documents show how deadly serious the scramble for Arctic resources has become.

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In France, A Reactor Is Being Built Which Will Make Stars

To_Pit_Radial_2Soon we may have a glimpse of the world’s first star garden — imagine sitting within its confines on a summer night. BLDG BLOG writes:

An artificially excavated limestone pit in the south of France will soon host star-making technology. Construction involves inserting a supergrid of rebar into the quarried pit, securing the limestone walls with concrete foundation work, then pouring seismically-stabilized plinths that will support the so-called International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, a kind of concrete garden that produces stars.

Nestled in its semi-subterranean, mine-like site and buzzing inside with radiation-resistant robot elevators, the ITER will recreate, again and again, “the process that powers the sun and most other stars. At extremely high temperatures, hydrogen nuclei will fuse to form helium, spitting out more energy than the process consumes, something that has never yet been achieved by a human-made device.”

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Middle America Is Experiencing a Massive Increase in Earthquakes

Middle America Earthquake ZoneAlexis Madrigal writes on the Atlantic:

Earthquakes are striking the heartland from Alabama to Montana at an unprecedented rate — and human activity is probably to blame.

A new United States Geological Survey study has found that middle America between Alabama and Montana is experiencing an “unprecedented” and “almost certainly manmade” increase in earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater. In 2011, there were 134 events of that size. That’s six times more than were normally seen during the 20th century.

While the changes in the area’s seismicity began in 2001, the trend has really accelerated since 2009, the geologists note. That happens to coincide with increased oil and gas production using new extraction techniques in some parts of the area.

The new work is being presented at the Seismology Society of America’s conference later this month. An abstract for the presentation is available online. In some regions, the increase in earthquakes is even greater than six fold.

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America To Become More Like A Third-World Petro-State?

petroleumVia Guernica, Michael Klare argues that that’s what the giant energy companies are aiming for:

The “curse” of oil wealth is a well-known phenomenon in Third World petro-states, where millions of lives are wasted in poverty and the environment is ravaged while tiny elites rake in the energy dollars and corruption rules the land. Recently, North America has been repeatedly hailed as the planet’s twenty-first-century “new Saudi Arabia” for “tough energy”—deep-sea oil, Canadian tar sands, and fracked oil and natural gas.

Here, then, is the energy surprise of the twenty-first century: with operating conditions growing increasingly difficult in the global South, the major firms are now flocking back to North America. To exploit previously neglected reserves on this continent, however, Big Oil will have to overcome a host of regulatory and environmental obstacles. It will, in other words, have to use its version of deep-pocket persuasion to convert the United States into the functional equivalent of a Third World petro-state.

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