To unleash global innovation, think local

September 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Business, Green

Innovation is needed to bring America, and the world, across the renewable energy finish line. How do you cultivate an environment where utilities, regulators and buyers will increase their risk appetite? Start with local solutions to the energy transition. 

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To unleash global innovation, think local

Trump’s DOE invests $62 million in concentrated solar power

September 15, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump doesn’t usually mention solar power , unless it’s talk of covering his beloved border wall in solar panels . But his Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced a huge investment in concentrated solar power (CSP). Recently, the solar industry  reached the 2020 SunShot Initiative utility-scale solar cost goal, so the DOE is now looking into new priorities for investment. The DOE recently issued a press release stating they’ll invest up to $82 million in research: $62 million for CSP and $20 million in power electronics technologies, focusing on new technologies now that the average price for utility-scale solar is now six cents per kilowatt-hour. The MIT Technology Review suggested DOE officials think CSP could enhance grid stability more in the long term since CSP plants can store some power as heat, allowing them to keep producing electricity when there’s no sunshine. Related: Dubai to build the world’s biggest concentrated solar power plant But the energy CSP plants generate has been costlier than photovoltaics . And according to the MIT Technology Review, some people are suspicious the DOE may move to weaken support for photovoltaics. The Trump administration’s 2018 budget proposal slashed funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by almost 70 percent. That’s the same office that manages the SunShot Initiative. The DOE also announced a $50 million funding opportunity for large-scale pilot fossil fuel projects in late August. But CSP’s ability to store power is a strong advantage. Energy policy researcher David Victor of the University of California, San Diego did say investing in CSP makes sense, telling MIT Technology Review, “My general impression is that we have relatively over-invested in photovoltaics and under-invested in [concentrated solar].” Dan Reicher, executive director at Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, told MIT Technology Review, “[Concentrated solar power] today hasn’t been able to compete with photovoltaics, but there are some promising research areas. Given the climate challenge, we need to put eggs in many, many zero-carbon baskets.” Via MIT Technology Review and the Department of Energy Images via Bureau of Land Management on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Trump’s DOE invests $62 million in concentrated solar power

The world’s biggest offshore wind farm is being built in the UK

September 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Very soon, the UK will be home to the world’s largest wind farm . The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced that DONG Energy  is building a 1,386 megawatt wind farm called Hornsea Project Two. Once completed, the massive project will provide enough energy to power 1.3 million homes. Thanks to record low prices, offshore wind is now cheaper than gas and nuclear energy. This resulted in a  UK-low strike price of £57.50 per MWh, making wind an attractive investment. The Hornsea Project Two will be located 89 kilometers off the Yorkshire coast and slightly north of Hornsea Project One, a 1,200 MW offshore wind farm in the North Sea off the coast of England. The equivalent of 1.3 million UK homes are expected to receive power from the Hornsea Project Two, and up to 2,000 jobs during construction and 130 jobs during the 25-year operation life of the project will be created. “We’re delighted to be awarded a Contract for Difference for Hornsea Project Two, which is another important step towards fulfilling our vision of making offshore wind the most competitive form of electricity generation,” Said Samuel Leupold, the Executive Vice President and CEO of Wind Power at DONG Energy. “We have always promoted size as a key driver for cost. The ideal size of an offshore wind farm is 800-1,500MW, and therefore it is natural that Hornsea Project Two will deliver record-low costs to society. At the same time, the low strike price demonstrates the cost saving potential of developer-built offshore grid connections, which in the UK is included in the project scope.” Related: Revolutionary floors made from waste wood pulp generate clean energy DONG Energy UK’s Managing Director, Matthew Wright, added, “This is a breakthrough moment for offshore wind in the UK and a massive step forward for the industry . Not only will Hornsea Project Two provide low cost, clean energy to the UK, it will also deliver high-quality jobs and another huge boost to the UK supply chain.” The Hornsea Project One will begin operation in 2020, and Project Two in 2022. According to UK Minister for Energy and Industry, Richard Harrington, the UK’s latest investment is evidence that the country has “placed clean growth at the heart of the Industrial Strategy to unlock opportunities across the country while cutting carbon emissions . He said, “The offshore wind sector alone will invest £17.5bn in the UK up to 2021 and thousands of new jobs in British businesses will be created by the projects announced today. This government will continue to seize these opportunities as the world moves towards a low carbon future, and will set out ambitious proposals in the upcoming Clean Growth Plan.” + Dong Energy  Via Clean Technica Images via Dong Energy , Shutterstock

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The world’s biggest offshore wind farm is being built in the UK

Offshore wind power is cheaper than new nuclear power in the UK

September 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Business, Green

Offshore wind power has pulled ahead of nuclear power in the United Kingdom . Energy from offshore wind farms will be less expensive than power from a new nuclear project for the first time, based on subsidy figures via the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy after an auction. Emma Pinchbeck of Renewable UK said the figures were “truly astonishing.” Two firms said they’d construct offshore wind farms for a subsidy of £57.50, around $76, per megawatt-hour for 2022-23, according to the BBC, which noted these figures are around half the subsidy costs in a 2015 auction. Compare £57.50 with the subsidy secured by new nuclear plant Hinkley Point C , which is £92.50, or around $122, per megawatt-hour. Related: Is this $26 billion UK nuclear power plant worth its ludicrous cost? Pinchbeck told the BBC, “We still think nuclear can be part of the mix – but our industry has shown how to drive costs down, and now they need to do the same.” The BBC listed larger turbines , foundations that cost less, and higher voltage cables as components that have helped reduce prices for offshore wind, along with UK supply chain growth and the oil and gas industry downturn. An example of those larger turbines are new eight-megawatt ones that are nearly 656 feet tall – and Pinchbeck suggested turbines could double in size during the 2020’s. The nuclear industry said nuclear power is still necessary for times when the wind isn’t blowing. Nuclear Industry Association chief executive Tom Greatrex said, “It doesn’t matter how low the price of offshore wind is. On last year’s figures it only produced electricity for 36 percent of the time.” The subsidies for the wind farms will come from a consumer bill levy, and will run for 15 years, according to the BBC. Hinkley Point C’s subsidies will run for 35 years. Minister for Energy and Industry Richard Harrington said the offshore wind projects would create thousands of new jobs . Via the BBC Images via Wikimedia Commons and NHD-INFO on Flickr

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Offshore wind power is cheaper than new nuclear power in the UK

Sweden is putting stressed-out people in tiny glass ‘chillout cabins’

September 12, 2017 by  
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Can nature really be the cure for stress? Sweden wants to find out – so it’s sending five people in extremely stressful professions to spend three glorious days in beautiful glass-enclosed “ chillout cabins ” on an idyllic island. The 72 Hour Cabin program seeks to investigate the effects of nature on people’s well-being. Led by researchers Walter Osika and Cecilia Stenfors from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, the case study explores how Allemansrätten (freedom to roam) affects people’s mental and physical health. The aim of the study is to spread awareness of the unique relationship the Swedish population has with nature , and encourage people around the world to spend more time bonding with Mother Nature. Related: Artist builds incredible stained-glass cabin in the middle of the woods “Year after year, Sweden takes first place in international rankings of countries with the best life quality. Swedish nature, which is clean, vast and easy to take part in, is a part of the secret.” the 72-hour website reads. “The Swedes’ unique relationship with nature is an important part of their well-being, which is why Sweden has created ‘The 72 Hour Cabin’. With the initiative, Sweden wants to acquaint visitors with the special bond that Swedes have with their natural environment, and invite the world to experience it themselves.” The lucky participants include a London broadcaster, a Parisian taxi driver, an event planner from New York, a German police officer, and a British travel journalist. Each will spend three days in their own cabin located on Henriksholm island in West Sweden, experiencing the Swedish “close to nature” lifestyle. All communication with the outside world will be forbidden. For the most part, the participants will be able to hike, fish, cook, swim, and generally enjoy their peaceful surroundings. Researchers will be on-site to measure their well-being based on stress levels, problem-solving ability, and creativity. The results of the study will be presented in October. The glass cabins were designed by Jeanna Berger and built with the help of Fridh & Hells Bygg AB Construction Company . Berger grew up on the island and used the beautiful area as inspiration for the design. The wood-framed structures – which are placed on pillars in order to leave a light footprint – were inspired by the traditional barns found in the area. + 72 Hour Cabin Via Apartment Therapy Photography by Maja Flink  

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Sweden is putting stressed-out people in tiny glass ‘chillout cabins’

MIT researchers explore ancient firebrick technology to store energy

September 7, 2017 by  
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Firebricks – or bricks made with clay able to endure temperatures of 1,600 degrees Celsius – have been around for at least 3,000 years. Now Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers are revisiting this ancient technology to potentially help us transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy . The researchers worked out a scheme where excess electricity , generated when the wind is blowing or sun is shining, could be converted into heat and stored in the firebricks for later use. The firebricks technology has existed since the time of the Hittites, according to MIT researchers, who want to draw on this old technology to help make carbon-free power sources competitive with fossil fuels. Right now, with solar and wind power , electricity prices can collapse to near zero when there’s high wind or solar output, making those clean energy installations unprofitable unless companies can store power. Related: Google wants to solve renewable energy storage with salt and antifreeze Their system, called Firebrick Resistance-heated Energy Storage, or FIRES, costs between one-tenth and one-fortieth as much as pumped hydroelectric systems or batteries . It works like this: electric resistance heaters convert that excess electricity to heat, which would be stored in a large mass of firebricks. If the firebricks are inside an insulated casing, they can store that heat for long periods of time. The heat could either be utilized for industrial processes or converted back to electricity later. Regis Matzie, retired Westinghouse Electric Chief Technical Officer, wasn’t involved with the research but told MIT the way electricity prices are determined in America yields to a “skewed electricity market [that] produces low or even negative prices when a significant fraction of electrical energy on the grid is provided by renewables.” He said FIRES could offer an innovative solution, but a demonstration would probably be needed to see if the method is indeed economical. The Electricity Journal published the MIT research online the end of August. The next step will be setting up full-scale prototypes in the real world, which lead author Charles Forsberg said could occur in 2020. He said they’re looking for the right customers – one example would be an ethanol refinery, since they use a lot of heat, located near a large wind farm . Via MIT News Images via U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Gary J. Rihn/Released and courtesy of the researchers

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MIT researchers explore ancient firebrick technology to store energy

Three hurricanes form in the Atlantic for the first time since 2010

September 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

While Hurricane Irma barrels through the Caribbean towards the United States mainland, another two potentially powerful storms are waiting in the wings. Following closely behind Irma, one of the strongest hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic, are Tropical Storms Jose and Katia. The presence of these storms marks the first time since 2010 that three active hurricanes have formed in the Atlantic. In what may prove to be one of the most active on record , the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season has already demonstrated the unpredictable and explosive power of storms in the age of climate change . Jose, like Irma, is known as a Cape Verde hurricane for its origins in the far eastern Atlantic , near the island nation of Cape Verde off the coast of Africa . However, it is unlikely that Jose will follow Irma’s path nor will it likely be as powerful. Jose is expected to spin towards the open ocean and become a Category 3 hurricane, though it is not expected to travel over any land area. Related: Harvey forces National Weather Service to add new color to its rainfall map Katia is more closely related to Harvey, in that it too became a hurricane in the warm waters of the southern Gulf of Mexico. Despite its shared birthplace with the devastating hurricane that made landfall near Houston , Katia is expected to travel close to Mexico . It is currently nearly 200 miles northeast of Veracruz, Mexico, near which a small portion of the coast is currently under hurricane watch. Although three hurricanes active in the Atlantic at the same time is unusual, it is neither unprecedented nor unrivaled. During the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season, four hurricanes, including Hurricane Georges which caused major damage in Haiti and the Dominican Republic , were active during the same period. Via CNN Images via NOAA (1)

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Three hurricanes form in the Atlantic for the first time since 2010

Hurricane Irma as seen from the International Space Station

September 6, 2017 by  
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NASA captured an astonishing video of Hurricane Irma from space. Soon after the National Hurricane Center upgraded Irma to a Category 5 storm , the International Space Station’s external cameras caught what NASA described as a dramatic view of the hurricane . Irma has already smashed records – meteorologist Philip Klotzbach said on Twitter earlier this morning Irma has broken the Atlantic record previously held by 1980’s Hurricane Allen for Accumulated Cyclone Energy produced during 24 hours. Hurricane Irma is currently moving over Caribbean islands, and looks to be en route to Florida with winds reaching up to 185 miles per hour. As the International Space Station orbited the Earth, the station’s cameras shot the hurricane from multiple angles, showing how truly massive it is. According to weather forecaster Liam Dutton , Hurricane Irma is so large it would cover both Ireland and the United Kingdom. Related: Category 5 Hurricane Irma is one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever Most of the people on Antigua and Barbuda lost power, and in Antigua around 1,000 people spent the night in shelters, according to ABS TV and Radio director of news Garfield Burford. He said the winds posed a major threat, and that a few rooftops had already blown away. Around 1,600 people reside on Barbuda, where the eye of Hurricane Irma passed over. Irma – des images de Saint Barth @ParisMatch pic.twitter.com/KhbYgMr6ha — Pauline Lallement (@pau_lallement) September 6, 2017 The hurricane also hit Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy, causing blackouts and flooding . French Overseas Territories Minister Annick Girardin was quoted by AFP as saying Hurricane Irma has resulted in major damage on multiple Caribbean islands. French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told reporters of Saint Martin, “We know that the four most solid buildings on the island have been destroyed which means that more rustic structures have probably been completely or partially destroyed.” Image d'un hôtel à #StMartin après le passage #IRMA #ouraganIRMA via @guadeloupe_1ere pic.twitter.com/im6ORYro8m — La1ere.fr (@la1ere) September 6, 2017 According to The Guardian, Tropical Storm Jose, which is the weather system following Hurricane Irma, is forecast to turn into a hurricane by tonight. Via Reuters , The Guardian , and NASA Images via screenshot and screenshot

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Hurricane Irma as seen from the International Space Station

New rooftop cooling tech beams excess heat into outer space

September 5, 2017 by  
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Heat rises, and, with a little help from scientists, can soar as high as outer space. A team at Stanford University has created a roof-mounted system which cools buildings, without the need for electricity, by incorporating solar panel-like machines that beam heat into the cold expanse of space. This system, known as radiative sky cooling, is seen as an early step to developing a full strength system to cool buildings without the need for an external energy source. This could prove enormously beneficial in dealing with the impacts of climate change (a warmer planet) while reducing its causes (lowering emissions). Shanhui Fan, professor of electrical engineering at Stanford, and his team have been working on radiative sky cooling since 2013. Their recent research has demonstrated that the radiative sky cooling system is capable of lowering the temperature of flowing water to below that of the air around it. While Fan and his team have specifically harnessed radiative sky cooling for air conditioning purposes, this process is something that occurs naturally. “If you have something that is very cold – like space – and you can dissipate heat into it, then you can do cooling without any electricity or work. The heat just flows,” explained Fan. “For this reason, the amount of heat flow off the Earth that goes to the universe is enormous.” Related: Massive new data center to be built in chilly Norway to offset energy use The primary obstacle to achieving a net-temperature decrease through radiative sky cooling is the heat received from the sunlight. To solve this problem, the radiative sky cooling system at Stanford incorporates panels that are coated with a multilayer optical film, which has the ability to reflect up to 97 percent of the incoming sunlight . Using data gathered from small-scale testing, the Stanford team projected that a full-scale radiative sky cooling system would result in an 18 to 50 percent reduction in the amount of energy needed to cool a building. To further develop the concept, the team has started a company called SkyCool Systems and plans to incorporate their system into refrigeration and air conditioning models, with a particular focus on cooling massive data centers . Via New Atlas Images via  Norbert von der Groeben and Aaswath Raman

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New rooftop cooling tech beams excess heat into outer space

China plans to build nearly 300 new eco-cities

September 5, 2017 by  
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China broke ground on a 40,000-tree-filled Forest City earlier this summer – but apparently one isn’t enough. The country, infamous for their environmental pollution , plans to construct 285 eco-cities , according to Forbes. But what exactly an eco-city constitutes – and the standards to which it will be held – is still in question. Individual buildings can be held up against LEED standards, or even China’s Three Star system. But Forbes pointed out there’s no such criteria for entire cities . The publication quoted Austin Williams, Jiaotong-Liverpool University professor and author of a book on eco-cities, who said, “There is no definition of an eco-city, which makes them incredibly easy to invent.” Related: China plans its first “Forest City” to fight air pollution The country has urbanized more rapidly than any other country in history. In the last 30 years, more people than America’s entire population have moved to urban areas of China. The country has prioritized development over the environment in many cases, with dangerous air quality found in 90 percent of cities. According to Forbes, as the public has become educated about the pollution, environmental conditions in the country could pose the largest destabilizing force to the Communist Party. Will China’s eco-cities recycle , be powered by renewable energy , produce less carbon emissions , and be built with energy-efficient structures – a few hallmarks we might expect in an eco-city? Williams said, “In the West, eco-cities are supposed to save the world; in China they are simply meant to provide a decent quality of urban environment…China’s eco-cities are simply intended to be much-needed urban improvements and infrastructural development with an eco-prefix.” 80 percent of prefectural-level cities are estimated to have at least one eco-city in the works. One estimate suggests in the near future, more than 50 percent of new urban developments in China will be labeled green, smart, low-carbon, or eco. It remains to be seen whether these eco-cities will genuinely benefit China’s environment – and the people who live in them. Via Forbes Images via Stefano Boeri Architetti

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China plans to build nearly 300 new eco-cities

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