Bitcoin is expected to consume enough energy to power Austria by the end of 2018

May 18, 2018 by  
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Though bitcoin ‘s value may rise and fall dramatically, the energy required to produce bitcoins seems to be ever on the rise. Researchers estimate that the bitcoin network may consume as much as 7.7 gigawatts of energy , the equivalent of the electricity required to power Austria. If the value of bitcoin continues to rise, the entire bitcoin network may one day consume up to five percent of the world’s energy. A new study published in the journal   Joule  predicts that bitcoins use up to half a percent of the world’s total energy supply. Critics question the study’s assumptions and claim a lack of sufficient evidence to determine future bitcoin energy consumption with such precision. Regardless, bitcoin’s rising price could come with significant environmental costs. The bitcoin network primarily consumes energy through “mining” of the cryptocurrency, which occurs by running a computer program and time-stamping bitcoin transactions. These transactions take place on the blockchain, the networked account system behind cryptocurrencies. “The main problem is that the energy consumption primarily relates to how agreement on the underlying blockchain is reached,” blockchain specialist and study author Alex de Vries  told Gizmodo . “Mining makes it a big competitive lottery where the winner — every 10 minutes — gets to create the next block for the blockchain. The built-in reward for this process is fixed, so it motivates participants to constantly add new machines to the network to get a bigger slice of the pie — the more computational power, the more you win.” Related: Bitcoin mining powers Canadian man’s innovative aquaponic garden In his study, de Vries focused on determining the cost of maintaining the network after bitcoin mining becomes unprofitable. “In essence I’m taking an economic point of view to figure out where energy consumption is heading. Previous work typically looked at available hardware, and produced results that only said something about the current consumption,” de Vries said. “My findings were based on the current conditions, so bitcoin doesn’t need to increase in value for the conclusion to hold.” Some experts disagree with de Vries’ methods and conclusions. “A major limitation of de Vries’ model is that it depends on guessing bitcoin’s future price as well as the cost of electricity to miners,” bitcoin investor  Marc Bevand told Gizmodo . “In the paper he assumes bitcoin maintains its current level at approximately $8,000 and electricity costs $0.05 per kWh. If either bitcoin goes up or electricity costs plummet, the energy consumption should increase, and vice versa.” Though the endeavor to determine the future of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies continues, it seems clear that the environmental impact of bitcoin may be steep. Via Gizmodo Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Bitcoin is expected to consume enough energy to power Austria by the end of 2018

For the first time ever, all villages in India have electricity

April 30, 2018 by  
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India has just reached a major energy milestone: for the first time ever, every single one of its inhabited villages has electricity. There are nearly 600,000 villages in the country, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised that they would all be connected to power within 1,000 days of August 2015. Last Saturday, Leisang village was connected to India’s power grid, completing that promise. I salute the efforts of all those who worked tirelessly on the ground, including the team of officials, the technical staff and all others, to make this dream of a #PowerfulIndia a reality. Their efforts today will help generations of Indians in the coming years. pic.twitter.com/t8WjZgpNuT — Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 29, 2018 While Leisang was connected to the main power grid, some villages have relied on off-grid supply networks, usually powered by solar . Pakol, a village in the same same state, was the last village to be powered by an off-grid system. The power initiative, which Modi tags as #PowerfulIndia, also seeks to strengthen metering and power distribution within the country. Leisang village in Manipur, like the thousands of other villages across India has been powered and empowered! This news will make every Indian proud and delighted. https://t.co/UCPEEITbIM #PowerfulIndia — Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 29, 2018 Related: The Indian city of Diu is 100% powered by the sun A village is considered to have power if 10 percent of its buildings have access to electricity . That means India has a long way to go before everyone has working power, but the successful initiative is a milestone nonetheless.” Village electrification means that the infrastructure to supply power has now reached certain parts of the village. The next step should be to focus on providing connection to all households and ensuring adequate power supply to these homes,” former power secretary P Uma Shankar said. It is up to individual homes to seek electrification if they choose. Via Times of India Image via Deposit Photos

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UK smashes days-old record, goes without coal for 76 hours

April 26, 2018 by  
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Just over a week ago, the United Kingdom set a new record: almost 55 hours without using coal . It didn’t take them long to shatter that record. CleanTechnica reported the country just went 76 hours without the polluting fuel — “for the first time since the 1880s,” according to a National Grid Twitter account . For the first time since the 1880s the UK electricity network has clocked up over 72 hours without the need for coal generation. This new record comes days after the first ever 48 hour period of no coal on the network. — National Grid Media (@Grid_Media) April 24, 2018 The country started their coal-free streak on Saturday, April 21, and went into Tuesday, April 24, ultimately going for 76 hours and 10 minutes, according to the UK Coal Twitter account . This may not be the last record the United Kingdom sets this year; Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit analyst Jonathan Marshall told The Guardian , “Ever rising renewable capacity in the UK will see these records fall more and more frequently, clearly showing progress made over the past decade or two.” The final length of this record #coal free run was 76 Hours 10 minutes. Coal units are now back generating. pic.twitter.com/OauJREXzxN — UK Coal (@UK_Coal) April 24, 2018 Related: The UK just went for a record 55 hours without using coal What did the UK run on in the absence of coal? The Guardian put out a graphic showing the electricity mix from April 21 at 10 AM to April 24 at 10 AM; during that time 30.3 percent of power came from gas , 24.9 percent from wind , 23.3 percent from nuclear , 15.3 percent from biomass or other sources, and 6.2 percent from solar . Electrical engineer Andrew Crossland, who operates MyGridGB , cautioned against replacing coal with gas, telling The Guardian, “Shifting to gas is likely to make our electricity market more volatile as our energy price becomes increasingly locked to international gas markets. That will only hurt consumers.” More coal stations are shuttering — two plant owners in the country have said they’ll close this year, according to The Guardian. What will happen to those brownfield sites? The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit explored that question in a recent blog post from Marshall, who said one old power station could be transformed into a cruise ship terminal, another into housing, and others as logistics centers. At the time of writing, the UK was on another streak and had already gone 39 continuous hours without coal — could another record be over the horizon? Via CleanTechnica and The Guardian Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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The UK just went for a record 55 hours without using coal

April 19, 2018 by  
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Coal fueled the world for more than 100 years, but now it’s being pushed out of the market. Recent evidence for that can be found in the United Kingdom , which just set a new record by going nearly 55 hours sans coal. The UKs energy sector went from 10:25 p.m. on Monday to 5:10 a.m. on Thursday without utilizing coal for power generation. Grid data put together by Bloomberg revealed the United Kingdom’s power plants didn’t use coal to help generate electricity for close to 55 hours — the longest stretch of time in recent history. The Independent said this is the first time the UK has been powered without coal for this length of time since the first public-use, coal-fired power plant in the world opened in 1882 in London. The UK set its previous record in October when the nation went without coal for 40 hours. Related: 104% of Portugal’s electricity consumption in March came from renewable energy Wind turbines helped provide energy for the UK during this time; solar panels also helped meet demand. On Tuesday, the country obtained more than 60 percent of electricity from low- or zero-carbon sources: 33.7 percent from wind, 20.1 percent from nuclear , five percent from biomass , 3.3 percent from solar and 0.9 percent from hydro . The numbers were similar on Wednesday. Bloomberg said Britain has installed more offshore wind turbines than any other country, and they described the UK as an early adopter of renewable energy. Traditional power plants in the country are closing permanently, and the UK government aims to turn off all coal power plants by 2025. The UK set a new record of 54 hours and 50mins without #coal fired generation in the UK electricity mix this week https://t.co/knjFLPms2p Expect more records to be broken this summer as coal continues its rapid decline https://t.co/pQdDnipSJ0 pic.twitter.com/hgTP4eEJF5 — Carbon Tracker (@CarbonBubble) April 19, 2018 According to a March 2018 article from Carbon Brief, “Coal now accounts for only 5.3 percent of total primary energy consumed in the UK, down from 22 percent in 1995.” The country’s total carbon dioxide emissions are “as low as emissions were back in 1890.” Via Bloomberg , The Independent and Carbon Brief Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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Solar and wind energy could meet 80% of US electricity demand

February 28, 2018 by  
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Fourth-fifths of the United States’ electricity demand could be met with wind and solar power , according to four researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science , University of California, Irvine (UCI), and the California Institute of Technology . UCI associate professor Steven Davis said in a statement , “The fact that we could get 80 percent of our power from wind and solar alone is really encouraging. Five years ago, many people doubted that these resources could account for more than 20 or 30 percent.” The scientists scrutinized global hourly weather data between 1980 and 2015 data to grasp the geophysical barriers to utilizing solely those renewable sources, and think if the United States were to draw only on solar and wind, they’d need to store several weeks’ worth of power to make up for those times when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing. According to Davis, the US could reliably obtain around 80 percent of electricity from wind and solar power “by building either a continental-scale transmission network or facilities that could store 12 hours’ worth of the nation’s electricity demand.” Related: Abundant solar threatens fossil fuel companies in Texas to the tune of $1.4 billion It wouldn’t be cheap to invest in expanding transmission or storage capabilities, but the researchers said it’s not inconceivable. They estimate new transmission lines required could cost hundreds of billions of dollars, while storing that amount of electricity with the cheapest batteries today could cost over one trillion dollars, but prices are dropping. Carnegie Institution for Science’s Ken Caldeira said, “Our work indicates that low-carbon-emission power sources will be needed to complement what we can harvest from the wind and sun until storage and transmission capabilities are up to the job. Options could include nuclear and hydroelectric power generation, as well as managing demand.” The journal Energy & Environmental Science published the research this week. + University of California, Irvine + Energy & Environmental Science Lead image via DepositPhotos ; others via Steve Zylius/UCI and Drew Hays on Unsplash

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New quantum tunneling application captures electricity from Earth’s heat

February 8, 2018 by  
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Researchers at  King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia have learned how to produce electricity from Earth’s excess heat through quantum tunneling. Quantum tunneling is a phenomenon in which particles are able to tunnel through a barrier that, under the rules of classical mechanics, they are usually unable to pass through. First predicted in the early 20th century and generally accepted by mid-century, quantum tunneling plays an important applied role in devices such as the tunnel diode, quantum computing, and the scanning tunneling microscope. Its more recent application, the harvest of electricity from Earth’s radiant heat, involves a specifically designed antenna that can identify this excess heat as high-frequency electromagnetic waves, then transforms the signals into a direct electrical charge. The heat produced by sunlight hitting the Earth results in a constant flow of infrared radiation that, if untapped, is essentially free energy gone to waste. It is estimated that the global output of infrared radiation may be as much as millions of gigawatts per second. Since the infrared wavelengths are so short, scientists at KAUST needed to design micro-antennas suited to catch this heat. “There is no commercial diode in the world that can operate at such high frequency,” said lead researcher Atif Shamim . “That’s why we turned to quantum tunneling.” Related: New double-pane quantum dot solar windows generate power with better efficiency Via a tunneling device known as a metal-insulator-metal (MIM) diode, electrons are able to pass through a small barrier, despite lacking the energy classically required to do so. As the electrons pass through this barrier, they are converted into an electrical direct current. The technology could be applied to solar panels , which currently only harvest a small percentage of the potential heat and light energy available for electrical power. While there is work to be done, the potential for how we gather and use energy is huge. “This is just the beginning – a proof of concept,” said Shamim . “We could have millions of such devices connected to boost overall electricity generation,” Via ScienceAlert Images via Depositphotos and  KAUST (1)

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YouTuber designs a DIY solar device to help power Puerto Rico

January 5, 2018 by  
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Swaths of Puerto Rico still lack electricity . Jehu Garcia, film-making equipment company owner and YouTuber , wondered how he could help. He’s built his own do-it-yourself version of a Powerwall , and tackled the Puerto Rico power issue with his technical know-how by building a solar generator , and providing information for others to also build the DIY generators. Garcia created a solar generator , which he explained in his video is “essentially a small, lightweight, portable Powerwall .” The solar generator is a box “containing batteries , an inverter, a solar charge controller, and all kinds of different connectors to get the power in and out.” His 13-minute video details how to make the device, and the text below includes links to the various components a builder would need – costing around $550, a figure which includes the cost of a solar panel , an extension cord to connect the device to the panel, and around six light bulbs. “This is a complete system ready to deploy in Puerto Rico to light up a home and to give at least power communications or medical devices,” Garcia said in his video. The device can be equipped to offer around one kilowatt-hours worth of battery. Related: More than 20 organizations launch Solar Saves Lives to power clinics and food markets in Puerto Rico Garcia called for people to build the solar generators, and send completed devices or parts to Javier Camacho, a contact of Garcia’s in Puerto Rico. Camacho recorded a video sharing his experience on the island, saying, “We are at the mercy of the people that can actually put the grid on – or, we could help them. We could make something.” Camacho has access to a maker space, according to Garcia, with people who could build the solar generators. OZY reported there have been 15 installations so far. + Jehu Garcia on YouTube Images via Jehu Garcia on Instagram ( 1 , 2 )

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YouTuber designs a DIY solar device to help power Puerto Rico

Clever switches use your OCD tendencies to save electricity

December 21, 2017 by  
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Do you have a habit of forgetting to turn off the lights? Thai designer Pakaporn Teadtulkitikul has a smart solution for those of us with obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Meet the OCD Switch, a clever light switch that takes advantage of our preference for pattern and symmetry to encourage users to turn the lights off and save electricity . When turned on, the switch is visually misaligned with its background, only to be set back in its proper place once turned off. Winner of a 2017 Red Dot Design concept Award , the OCD Switch is a simple and beautiful solution to a common problem. Pakaporn looked to basic human psychology to develop her concept and explored basic shapes and patterns familiar to the human brain for the design. Her final concept shows a white circular light switch with a ribbed pattern that is disrupted when turned on. Related: Obsession with material possessions makes you anxious and depressed The Red Dot design statement explains: “Observations about human behaviour and the subconscious tells us that human beings are naturally attracted to order, pattern and symmetry ; they feel uncomfortable when those are interrupted or when things seem off-balance. That is how we can trick the brain and manipulate the user’s routine behaviour to trigger a response.” + OCD Switch Via Yanko Design

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New Zealand aims for grid completely powered by renewables by 2035

November 8, 2017 by  
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New Zealand’s new prime minister has ambitious goals to seriously slash carbon emissions . Jacinda Ardern, who became prime minister in late October, wants to transition the grid to 100 percent renewables in less than 20 years. Her ultimate goal for New Zealand is zero carbon emissions by 2050. New Zealand’s 4.7 million people already obtain over 80 percent of electricity via sustainable sources, according to Bloomberg . But Ardern – now the world’s youngest female leader – seems to think they can do even better. She wants the country to move over to obtaining electricity completely from renewable energy by 2035. Related: New Zealand river world’s first to obtain legal status as a person The move won’t be without its challenges. New Zealand generates around 60 percent of their power from hydropower , according to 2016 figures. But when dry conditions cause lake levels to drop, gas and coal have helped out. Without those fossil fuels , electricity consumers could experience price hikes. But the country still has made a lot of progress towards the ambitious goal; in the winter of 2016, renewable energy generation actually peaked at 93 percent, according to Bloomberg. Ardern hasn’t put out full details of her plan to get New Zealand to a carbon-free status. She has suggested an independent commission to help meet the 2050 goal. New Zealand’s independent advisory body Productivity Commission has an inquiry into transitioning to a low carbon economy. Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson told Bloomberg Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar .” Contact Energy chief executive officer Dennis Barnes also pointed to solar – and batteries and electric vehicles – as technology that could help New Zealand move towards a greener future. Via Bloomberg and Futurism Images via Depositphotos and Good Free Photos

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New Zealand aims for grid completely powered by renewables by 2035

New EV charging system lets Nissan Leaf owners sell power back to the grid

October 11, 2017 by  
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UK residents who plan to purchase an electric vehicle (EV) next year should hold out for a Nissan Leaf. Energy company Ovo has partnered with the automaker to allow anyone with a garage to receive a special charger that facilitates a “vehicle-to-grid” energy exchange. During off-peak hours, when electricity costs are low, the charger will power up batteries, and switch back to charging up a home or even selling energy back to the grid during peak hours. Essentially, this means EV owners may never have to pay to charge their eco-friendly car. In off-peak hours in the UK, electricity costs approximately 5 cents a kilowatt ($0.07). At peak hours, that increases to as much as 25 cents. “In other words, the value of the electricity that’s stored in the battery goes up by a factor of five,” said Stephen Fitzpatrick, CEO of Ovo. “It provides an economic benefit for electric vehicle owners, so they get more use of out of the vehicle that they’ve got parked in the driveway.” By no means is the Nissan Leaf inexpensive. The brand-new car costs £26,490, or $35,064. However, by taking advantage of Ovo’s new program, car owners could save thousands of dollars in energy costs in the long-term. According to Fitzpatrick, the “vehicle-to-grid” technology is not complicated, which is why “other electric car manufacturers are looking at this.” He said, “If it lowers the cost of vehicle ownership, if it lowers the cost of driving the vehicle per mile, I think there will be a lot of consumer demand for it, and that will translate into agreement on technical standards with other car manufacturers.” As FastCompany reports, using the battery automatically in this way — instead of leaving it plugged in, is also better for its battery life. Related: 2018 Nissan Leaf debuts with 150-mile driving range for just 30k By 2021, there will be approximately 1 million electric cars on the road in the UK. If every single vehicle were to be plugged in at the same time, there would be a demand for seven gigawatts of power — or the equivalent of 10 power stations. On the contrary, if the cars were plugged in and charging at a peak time, the power stations would be obsolete. Clearly, technology such as this is needed. And, not only will “vehicle-to-grid” tech help solve the challenge of providing enough electricity to the growing number of EVs, it will also save vehicle owners money. “The flexible use of car batteries is a perfect complement for renewable generation,” said Fitzpatrick. “You can imagine as we see more electric vehicles on the road, we can have more and more renewable generation without compromising the grid stability…renewable energy and electric vehicles are the perfect complement, just like oil and the internal combustion engine.” Via FastCompany Images via Pixabay , Nissan Leaf

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