Posts Tagged ‘Energy’

A team of students from Bodmin College in Cornwall make biofuel from algae and waste cooking oil – with a little help from Plymouth Marine Laboratory and a farm that uses only sustainable and renewable energy sources. This film is part of the ongoing Energy Bits filmmaking project – to find out more and to take part, click here

Biofuels: fuelling our future with slime and cooking oil – video | Science | guardian.co.uk

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We hear a lot about energy research and development. Perhaps that’s because it’s the one sort of policy that Republicans and Democrats generally agree on. But there’s a different kind of research that I’d like to see get a lot more attention and funding. I’m talking about research into what various kinds of energy policies actually *do* to shape the technical possibilities open to humanity. In my time researching energy, most of the people who actually care about where we get our energy from have committed to an energy source, be it oil, gas, traditional nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal, or thorium. Then, they go looking for policies that would benefit their technology. I’ve also run into a lot of people who believe in inexorable laws of change in energy, whether that’s decarbonization or the inevitable rise of natural gas or nuclear power. And I’ve run into a lot of energy experts who believe in a fairly simple relationship between research money going in and technologies coming out. Unfortunately, none of these three groups of people is likely to produce very good energy policy. To put it in more mainstream terms, we’ve got a lot of energy pundits and very few energy Nate Silvers, who put reality (i.e. good data) ahead of ideology and intuition. Don’t get me wrong: everyone in energy loves them some data, but few people are interested in using it the way Silver does. Let me introduce you to a scholar who I think embodies the kind of research we need more of. His name is Gregory Nemet. He did his PhD at Berkeley and now teaches at the University of Madison, Wisconsin. I first discovered his work through a 2006 paper in Energy Policy, “Beyond the Learning Curve: factors influencing cost reductions in photovoltaics.” Now, you’re probably familiar with the neat story that learning curves tell. They say that as you do something, you get better at it, and because it’s a curve, the assumption is that this happens at a fairly consistent (and therefore predictable) rate. This is part of the rationale for supporting photovoltaics after all. They’ve gotten so much cheaper (orders of magnitude) over the last few decades that proponents suggest they’re inevitably going to get cheaper than grid electricity some time in the near future.

The Kind of Energy Research I’d Like to See More Of – Alexis C. Madrigal – The Atlantic

Posted: November 30, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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The world just got one step closer to renewable, cheap, and efficient large-scale energy production as researchers at Stanford University lead by engineer Yi Cui developed a grid-scale battery whose electrodes can last for up to a thousand charge cycles without degrading. The new battery is heralded as a game-changer for fluctuating renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. The key to the battery‘s design lies in the structure of its electrodes. In regular batteries, charged particles move towards the positive electrode during charging. During discharge, the particles flow back towards the negative electrode, creating an electric current. As this process is repeated, electrodes tend to degrade as the ions move back and forth. In Yi Cui’s battery, the negatively charged cathode is coated in hexacyanoferrate, and the positively charged anode is made of activated carbon and an electrically conductive polymer. The electrodes are set in a liquid solution of positively charged potassium ions, which are able to flow between the anode and cathode without damaging them. (via Stanford’s New Grid-Scale Battery Can Last for 1,000 Charge Cycles Without Degrading | ZeitNews)

Posted: November 7, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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Wind power could work almost anywhere if people turned to high-flying kites rather than relying on just wind turbines. The latest startup to run with that idea wants to harness high-altitude winds through the use of “kite surfing” technology. Kite surfers typically attach themselves to stunt kites so that they can “leap” high into the air. Berlin-based startup NTS GmbH wants to use similar kites to drive a generator that can convert the kinetic energy from the kites’ motions into electricity — a method that can make even lowland sites that have very little wind at ground level suitable for harnessing wind power. “The energy yield of a kite far exceeds that of a wind turbine, whose rotor tips turn at a maximum height of 200 meters (656 feet),” said Joachim Montnacher, an engineer at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Germany. “Doubling the wind speed results in eight times the energy.” (via ‘Kite Surfing’ Helps Harness Wind Power | Renewable Energy Startups | LiveScience)

Posted: November 7, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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The remote Pacific islands of Tokelau have become the first territory in the world to generate their electricity entirely from solar energy, in a project hailed as an environmental milestone. Before the solar power grid was completed, the New Zealand-administered grouping of three coral atolls, with a population of just 1,500, relied on diesel generators for electricity. Project coordinator Mike Bassett-Smith said the diesel was not only environmentally unfriendly, it also cost the islands, which lie about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, around NZ$1.0 million ($825,000) a year. Bassett-Smith, from New Zealand firm PowerSmart Solar, said the change would allow Tokelau to switch money from fuel purchases to social welfare projects. “For Tokelau, this milestone is of huge importance for their continued well-being,” he said in a statement received Wednesday. “Many Pacific nations struggle to provide a high proportion of their people access to electricity, and even when they do, access to affordable electricity is a significant additional challenge.” New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the US$7.0 million project had achieved a world first and Wellington was working with other Pacific nations such as Tonga and the Cook Islands to develop renewable energy. “Completed on time and on budget, the project is an excellent example of how small Pacific nations can lead the way on renewable energy,” he said. (via Pacific’s Tokelau in world first solar switch)

Posted: November 5, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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A device which could harness energy from a beating heart can produce enough electricity to keep a pacemaker running, according to US researchers. Repeated operations are currently needed to replace batteries in pacemakers. Tests suggested the device could produce 10 times the amount of energy needed. The British Heart Foundation said clinical trials were needed to show it would be safe for patients. Piezoelectric materials generate an electric charge when their shape is changed. They are used in some microphones to convert vibrations into an electrical signal. Researchers at the University of Michigan are trying to use the movement of the heart as a source of electricity. (via BBC News – Heartbeat ‘could power pacemaker’)

Posted: November 3, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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Scaling up the production of biofuels made from algae to meet at least 5 percent – about 10 billion gallons – of U.S. transportation fuel needs would place unsustainable demands on energy, water and nutrients, says a new report from the National Research Council, or NRC. However, these concerns are not a definitive barrier for future production, and innovations that would require research and development could help realize algal biofuels’ full potential.”Algal biofuels are not quite ready for prime time,” said NRC committee member Joel Cuello, a professor in the UA department of agricultural and biosystems engineering who co-authored the report. “In other words, if scaled up today, the resources that have to go into production would not be sustainable. However, in our report we say that this not a show stopper, because there are technology combinations that can be designed and developed to make the production process more environmentally sustainable.” (via Biofuel expert explains how future innovations could help realize algal biofuels’ full potential)