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Posts tagged "energy"
He who owns the oil will own the world, for he will own the sea by means of heavy oils, the air by means of the ultra-refined oils, and the land by means of the petrol and the illuminating oils. And in addition to these he will rule his fellow men in an economic sense, by reason of the fantastic wealth he will derive from oil - the wonderful substance which is more sought after and more precious than gold itself.

smarterplanet:

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In the search for renewable alternatives to gasoline, heavy alcohols such as isobutanol are promising candidates.

They contain more energy than ethanol and are also more compatible with existing gasoline-based infrastructure.

For isobutanol to become practical, however, scientists need a way to reliably produce huge quantities of it from renewable sources.

MIT chemical engineers and biologists have now devised a way to dramatically boost isobutanol production in yeast, which naturally make it in small amounts. They engineered yeast so that isobutanol synthesis takes place entirely within mitochondria, cell structures that generate energy and also host many biosynthetic pathways. Using this approach, they were able to boost isobutanol production by about 260 percent.

Though still short of the scale needed for industrial production, the advance suggests that this is a promising approach to engineering not only isobutanol but other useful chemicals as well, says Gregory Stephanopoulos, an MIT professor of chemical engineering and one of the senior authors of a paper describing the work in the Feb. 17 online edition of Nature Biotechnology

perscientiamlibertas:

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The handheld Electromagnetic Harvester allegedly charges a AA battery using just the electromagnetic fields given off by gadgets, power lines, vehicles, and even living things.

We’re surrounded by electromagnetic fields almost everywhere these days. Just because they’re almost imperceptible doesn’t mean they can’t be used as a source of energy though. One student in Germany recently built the Electromagnetic Harvester, a small box that allegedly charges an AA battery using just the electromagnetic fields given off by the likes of power lines, vehicles and electronic gadgets.

Dennis Siegel, a digital media student at the University of the Arts in Bremen, designed the handheld charger as a way to recover some of the energy from these electromagnetic fields. It may sound a little sketchy, but it’s an idea that many researchers, including a team at Georgia Tech, have been exploring for years. The main issue with this form of energy collection is the amount of power it generates tends to be incredibly small, which might explain why it takes a full day for the Electromagnetic Harvester to charge a single AA battery.

According to Siegel, using the harvester involves simply holding it up to anything with an electromagnetic field – a cell phone, a coffee maker, a commuter train, etc. Once it enters a strong enough field, a red LED will light up to indicate it is charging. It also has a magnet on the back to leave it attached near an EMF source and can charge from the combined fields of living things, like when a person pets a dog. Seigel designed two different versions of the harvester: one for frequencies below 100Hz (like those found in electricity mains) and one for frequencies above 100Hz (like those found in Bluetooth, WLAN, and radio broadcasts).

But don’t start thinking this signals the end of charging devices through ordinary wall sockets just yet. While the potential for this type of technology being used to charge very low-powered devices like wireless sensors or RFID tags is there, we remain very skeptical about any practical consumer electronics applications. Aside from not being able to generate enough power for a typical smartphone user, Siegel has yet to reveal any specifics on how his take on the ambient energy charging device works – only that it involves “coils and high frequency diodes.” So while it’s great in theory, we’ll take these claims with a grain of salt.

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…the current consumption of energy contained in [fossil] fuels equates every person on earth having 90 slaves.

perscientiamlibertas:

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The ships designed to install conventional offshore wind turbines weren’t big enough for Siemens’s newest turbines, so it had a new ship built for the job. The smokestack-like tubes are stilts that lift the ship out of the sea to steady it and allow the turbine to be installed.

Siemens installed two colossal offshore wind turbines this week, demonstrating technology that could have a significant impact on the economics of wind power.

The German company has been developing the turbines, which produce double the maximum power output of its current models, for several years. It has been testing the technology on land, and installed the first ones offshore with the help of a new ship designed specifically for the task. The turbines feature test blades that are 60 meters long, but Siemens intends to employ world-record 75-meter blades eventually.

Yet for offshore wind power to compete with fossil fuels, wind turbines may need to get even bigger. The new turbines generate six megawatts of power in good wind. Several companies are designing 10- and even 15-megawatt machines with 100-meter blades. These blades would reach two-thirds of the way to the roof of the Empire State Building. The push to supersize wind turbines is part of an effort to reduce installation and maintenance costs, which can be far higher than the cost of the turbines themselves. The pictures in this slideshow give a sense of just why installation is so costly.

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perscientiamlibertas:

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General Electric (GE) has stepped up its investment in clean energy over the past few years, and the company just announced the world’s most efficient high-output wind turbine – the “brilliant” 2.5-120. The 2.5-120 is the first wind turbine able to provide world-class efficiency and power output at low wind speed sites, and it features a 25% increase in efficiency and a 15% increase in power output compared to GE’s current models. In case you’re wondering what an 120-meter turbine will look like, its rotor will be the size of the London Eye!

The high efficiency and high output of GE’s 2.5-120 wind turbine will allow for higher returns for wind farm operators – even with lower wind speed sites. The “not-just-smart-but-brilliant” turbine is ideal for heavily forested regions in places like Europe and Canada that experience low wind speeds.

In a statement, Vic Abate, vice president of GE’s renewable energy business said: “Our 2.5-120 is the first wind turbine that utilizes the Industrial Internet to help manage the intermittency of wind, providing smooth, predictable power to the world regardless of what Mother Nature throws its way. Analyzing tens of thousands of data points every second, the 2.5-120 integrates energy storage and advanced forecasting algorithms while communicating seamlessly with neighboring turbines, service technicians and customers.”

The 2.5-120 marks the culmination of a number of experiments – over the past year GE also successfully demonstrated the integration of wind power and energy storage at its facility in California. The first prototype of the 2.5-120 will be installed in the Netherlands next month.

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perscientiamlibertas:

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Cities must abandon historical linear metabolisms, in which resources are shipped in and waste shipped out, and instead adopt more natural and resource-efficient circular metabolisms, according to the author. Currently, train yards like this one represent the inefficient and unsustainable resource flow of urban centers. Image: Kevin Duffy.

Summary: An urbanizing world requires major policy initiatives to make urban resource use compatible with the world’s ecosystems. Metropolitan Adelaide has adopted this agenda and is well on its way to becoming a pioneering regenerative city region. New policies by the government of South Australia on energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable transport, zero waste, organic waste composting, water efficiency, wastewater irrigation of crops, peri-urban agriculture, and reforestation have taken Adelaide to the forefront of eco-friendly urban development. Working as a thinker in residence in Adelaide in 2003, I proposed linking policies to reduce urban eco-footprints and resource use with the challenge of building a green economy. Former premier Mike Rann is now encouraging his successor, Jay Weatherill, to take further policy initiatives towards making South Australia into a model city region for the rest of the world.

If we do not take care in where we place our cities, how we grow our cities and how we live in our cities, then we will fail in our mission to protect biodiversity.”
Dr. Robert McDonald, The Nature Conservancy

In 2003, South Australia premier Mike Rann invited me to be a “Thinker in Residence” in Adelaide, South Australia, to explore options for greening this city region of 1.2 million people. My working premise was that a vigorous move towards environmental sustainability could greatly stimulate South Australia’s economy. The rationale for this was quite simple: I argued that a city region that takes active measures to improve the efficient use of its resources should also be able to reduce its reliance on imported resources—it could re-localize parts of its energy and food economy and bring a very substantial part of it back home.

During a nine-week period, my colleagues and I held innumerable seminars and events in which a wide cross-section of people were invited to discuss ways in which metropolitan Adelaide could benefit from becoming a sustainable city region. At the end of my residency I published a report called “Creating a Sustainable Adelaide” which was subsequently scrutinized and largely approved by a South Australia government committee.1

Over the last decade, both the government of South Australia and the City of Adelaide have shown remarkable foresight. They have taken many new initiatives on renewable energy, energy efficiency, public transport, waste recycling, peri-urban agriculture, and tree planting. (Peri-urban refers to the hinterland of cities.) Adelaide is well on its way to becoming not just a sustainable city but also a regenerative city: it has been working to build a new green economy while also actively contributing to the well-being and restoration of ecosystems in South Australia. In November 2011, I returned to Adelaide to document what had happened there regarding sustainable development in the last nine years. What I found was that the city has achieved a tremendous amount, but the large annual carbon emissions (around 20 tonnes of carbon per person) are a systemic problem that has yet to be seriously tackled.

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In the long run, the eventual use for oil will be for manufacturing useful organic chemicals. I expect our grandchildren to ask, “You burned it? All those lovely organic molecules, you just burned it?” Sorry, we burned it.
Kenneth Deffeyes, Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage (via perscientiamlibertas)

perscientiamlibertas:

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Many conservatives appear to have an unshakable, bedrock belief that solar power will never be cost-effective. Talk about solar, and conservatives often won’t even look at the numbers - they’ll just laugh at you. Mention that solar power recently provided almost half of Germany’s electricity at peak hours, and they’ll say things like “Oh, Germany’s economy must be tanking, then.” It seems like almost a fundamental axiom of their worldview that solar will always be too expensive to exist without government subsidies, and that research into solar is therefore money flushed down the toilet.

I suspect that many of these conservatives came of age in the 1970s, when solar was first being mooted as the “green” alternative to fossil fuels. They probably saw solar as a crypto-socialist plot; by scaring everyone about global warming and forcing businesses to convert to expensive solar power, “greens” would impose huge a implicit tax on business, causing the capitalist system to grind to a halt.

Maybe some people did support solar for just such a (silly) reason. But far-sighted people knew that technologies often require lots of government support to develop (basic research being, after all, a public good), and they saw that fossil fuels would have to start getting more expensive someday.

And now, after decades of research and subsidies, we may be on the verge of waking up into a whole new world. The cost of solar power has been falling exponentially for the past 35 years. What’s more, there is no sign at all that this cost drop is slowing. New technologies are in the pipeline right now that have the potential to make solar competitive with coal and natural gas, even with zero government subsidy.

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The average human can hit about 5 miles-per-hour in a brisk walk while the typical car averages 40 mph (city and freeway). While it is true that you can move eight times faster inside a two-ton vehicle, accomplishing this feat requires burning around 1,900 times as much energy (and that’s not factoring in friction, which increases with speed). This should tell you something about the fundamental insanity of depending on gas-fueled cars in an oil-starved future.