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Calif. in Aggressive Push for Solar Power

SACRAMENTO, Sept. 29 (UPI) — Solar projects on track for approval by California will double the state’s ability to generate electricity from solar power, state officials say.

Since August, four major solar projects including a 7,000-acre solar farm billed as the world’s largest have won approval from the California Energy Commission, which is expected to OK two more this week, USA Today reported Wednesday.

The solar farms, which use mirrors to concentrate the sun’s power to produce heat and generate electricity, could eventually produce enough electricity to power 675,000 homes, the newspaper said.

California has ample sunshine and will need it to meet its big renewable-energy goals. Last week state regulators passed measures requiring one-third of electricity sold in California to come from renewable sources by 2020.

The size of the projects shows how aggressively the state is embracing solar power.

“These are the first projects of this size in the U.S.,” Rhone Resch, CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, says. “They’re a sign to the rest of the country that solar is here, not a technology of the future.”

California’s aggressive push for solar is also being driven by an approaching federal deadline for stimulus funds.

Renewable-energy projects must be started by Dec. 31 to get federal cash grants in lieu of tax credits equal to 30 percent of the projects’ costs, USA Today reported.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Electricity, Other, Solar0 Comments

Italian Towns Profit from Green Energy

TOCCO DA CASAURIA, Italy, Sept. 29 (UPI) — More than 800 communities in Italy are making more power than they use with wind and solar installations, and many are making a profit from it, officials say.

One such community is Tocco Da Casauria, where selling excess renewable energy has meant the town has no local taxes and charges no fees for services like garbage removal, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

In the town of 2,700 people in Italy’s poor mountainous center, wind turbines sprout from its olive groves while solar panels generate electricity at its cemetery and sports complex as well as at a growing number of private residences, the newspaper said.

“Normally when you think about energy you think about big plants, but here what’s interesting is that local municipalities have been very active,” Edoardo Zanchini of the environmental group Legambiente said. “That this can happen in a place like Italy is really impressive.”

Like many towns, Tocco was motivated to become an early adopter of renewable energy because Italy has some of the highest electricity rates in Europe, nearly three times the average in the United States.

Tocco is now generating 30 percent more electricity than it uses. Production of green electricity earned the town more than $200,000 last year.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Electricity, Other, Solar, Wind0 Comments

Wind Power Green but Costs More Green

LONDON, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Wind power, while good for the environment, carries a price tag twice that of a natural gas- or coal-fired power station, British researchers say.

A report by the U.K. Energy Research Center said Britain’s massive expansion of wind farms, both offshore and on land, was based on underestimated costs of wind power in the mid-2000s, the Daily Mail reported Tuesday.

Over the next 10 years, the British government plans to build up to 10,000 new wind turbines to meet tough climate change targets, the newspaper said.

Instead of the predicted falling costs, in the last five years the cost of buying and installing turbines and towers at sea has gone up 51 percent, the report said.

Once the bill for building and maintaining an offshore wind farm is spread over the 25-year lifespan of a typical installation, each kilowatt hour of electricity costs 24 cents.

That’s nearly twice as expensive as electricity from conventional coal and gas power stations, which costs 13 cents, and more than nuclear, which costs 16 cents, the report said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Coal, Electricity, Natural Gas, Other, Wind0 Comments

Scientists Create Solar-power 'leaves'

RALEIGH, N.C., Sept. 24 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say flexible, water-gel-based “solar leaves” could be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than silicon-based solar cells.

Researchers at North Carolina State University say the bendable devices are composed of water-based gel infused with light-sensitive molecules coupled with electrodes coated by carbon materials, a NCSU release reports.

The molecules get “excited” by the sun’s rays to produce electricity, similar to the way plant molecules get excited to synthesize sugars in order to grow, Orlin Velev, a professor of chemical and bio-molecular engineering, says.

The team hopes to “learn how to mimic the materials by which nature harnesses solar energy,” Velev says.

Now that they’ve proven the concept, the researchers will work to fine-tune the water-based photovoltaic devices, making them even more like real leaves.

“The next step is to mimic the self-regenerating mechanisms found in plants,” Velev says.

“We do not want to over-promise at this stage, as the devices are still of relatively low efficiency and there is a long way to go before this can become a practical technology,” he says.

“However, we believe that the concept of biologically inspired ‘soft’ devices for generating electricity may in the future provide an alternative for the present-day solid-state technologies,” Velev says.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Electricity, Engineering, Other, Solar0 Comments

Conservationists Oppose Laos Dam Plans

VIENTIANE, Laos, Sept. 24 (UPI) — Laos says it rejects calls for a dam moratorium on the Mekong River because it wants cheap power to develop its economy despite threats to fish habitats.

The Southeast Asian nation moved this week to secure regional approval for the first major hydropower plant on its stretch of the lower Mekong in the face of protests from international conservation groups, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported Friday.

The country’s proposed hydropower plant threatens the habitat of the giant Mekong catfish, which can weigh up to 650 pounds, the newspaper said.

Catfish as long as small cars and stingrays that weigh more than tigers are threatened by the proposed 2,600-foot dam, but the government said the economic benefits outweigh the environmental risks.

“We don’t want to be poor anymore,” Viraphone Viravong, director general of the country’s energy and mines department, said. “If we want to grow, we need this dam.”

In a submission to the Mekong River Commission, Laos said it wants to build a hydropower plant at Sayabouly in northern Laos to generate foreign exchange income.

If approved, about 90 percent of the electricity would be sold to neighbors Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Sayabouly is the first of 11 proposed dams on the lower reaches of the Mekong, a river already heavily dammed upstream in China, the Guardian said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Cars, Conservation, Electricity, Fish, Other0 Comments

Test Turns Wastewater Sludge into Power

RENO, Nev., Sept. 23 (UPI) — An experiment to transform wastewater sludge into electrical power is being successfully tested at a Nevada wastewater treatment plant, researchers say.

University of Nevada, Reno, researchers say the immediate goal is producing enough power on site to meet the plant’s electrical needs, a university release said.

“We are very pleased with the results of the demonstration testing of our research,” Chuck Coronella, UNR associate professor of chemical engineering, said. “The process to dry the sludge to make it burnable for a gasification process, which could then be transformed into electricity, is working very well.

“This is an important step for our renewable energy research, processing about 20 pounds an hour of sludge in a continuous-feed system to produce about 3 pounds an hour of dried powder.”

The technology is an experimental carbon-neutral system. The solid fuel it produces will be analyzed for its suitability as a fuel, and the refrigerator-size demonstration unit will help researchers determine the optimum conditions for a commercial-sized operation.

“The beauty of this process is that it’s designed to be all on-site, saving trucking costs and disposal fees for the sludge,” Victor Vasquez, a faculty member in chemical engineering, said. “It uses waste heat from the process to drive the electrical generation. It also keeps the sludge out of the landfill.”

Estimates show a full-scale system has the potential to generate 25,000 kilowatt-hours per day to help power the local reclamation facility, researchers say.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Electricity, Engineering, Other0 Comments

In-water Power Generators to Be Studied

SEATTLE, Sept. 20 (UPI) — A U.S. study will take a look at how renewable energy devices placed in America’s rivers and coastal waters might affect marine life, researchers say.

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will test whether a variety of fish and invertebrates change their behavior after exposure to an electromagnetic field similar to those produced by marine and hydrokinetic power devices that capture energy from ocean waves, tides, currents and rivers, a laboratory release said.

“The ocean’s natural ebb and flow can be an abundant, constant energy source,” Andrea Copping, an oceanographer at the laboratory, said. “But before we can place power devices in the water, we need to know how they might impact the marine environment.”

The laboratory will use large electromagnetic coils to examine how fields may affect wildlife.

Several different technologies can use wave or river current movement to generate electricity that travels through cables that connect the device with a land power line.

Researchers want to know what effect the devices and their cables might have on marine life.

“We really don’t know if the animals will be affected or not,” Jeff Ward, a marine ecologist at the laboratory, said. “There’s surprisingly little comprehensive research to say for sure.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Electricity, Fish, Other0 Comments

Britain Urged to Speed Up Wind-power Plans

LONDON, Sept. 10 (UPI) — Britain must allow more wind farms if it is to meet its climate-change target of generating 15 percent of its energy needs from green sources, experts say.

The United Kingdom has committed to reaching that goal by 2020, but only 3 percent of its energy now comes from renewable sources like wind and solar power, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.

The country is likely to miss the target unless there is massive investment in wind, wave and solar power, said Lord Adair Turner, chairman of the Committee on Climate Change.

He called for the government to “ramp up” efforts to build turbines both on land and at sea.

The average wind farm project takes more than three years to win approval, he said, and in the last year planning approval rates fell from 68 per cent to 53 per cent.

Planning permission needs to be given faster so that three times as many turbines can be installed every year, he said.

“Any changes to the planning framework should focus on reducing planning times in order that renewable electricity projects proceed as required to meet the target,” Turner said in a letter to Energy and Climate Change Minister Chris Huhne.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Electricity, Other, Solar, Wind0 Comments

Turtle Species Facing Rapid Decline

LONDON, Sept. 10 (UPI) — World populations of freshwater turtles are in catastrophic decline with one-third of the globe’s species facing extinction, a U.S. conservation group says.

Conservation International says the unsustainable taking of turtles for food and to supply a lucrative pet trade are behind the drop in numbers of the estimated 280 world species, the BBC reported Friday.

Turtles are highly sought in Asia, particularly in China, where turtle meat is believed to have medicinal benefits.

Habitat loss caused by damming of rivers for hydro-electricity is another major problem, CI said.

The outlook is worrisome, said Peter Paul van Dijk, director of CI’s Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Conservation Program.

“These are animals that take 15-20 years to reach maturity and then live for another 30-40 years, putting a clutch of eggs in the ground every year,” he said.

“They play the odds, hoping that in that 50-year lifetime, some of their hatchlings will somehow evade predators and go on to breed themselves.

“But if you take these animals out before they’ve reached 15 and can reproduce, it all ends there,” van Dijk said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Animals, Conservation, Electricity, Other0 Comments

If a Hurricane Watch is Called

ATLANTA, Sept. 3 (UPI) — U.S. health officials say people living in areas where hurricane watches are posted should plan and expect to evacuate, and never ignore evacuation orders.

Hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings were posted Thursday evening for much of the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to the Canadian Maritimes as Hurricane Earl churned along the coast.

The National Weather Service issues hurricane watches when there is a threat to coastal areas of hurricane conditions within 24-36 hours, a statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

If a hurricane watch is issued, the CDC says to:

– Fill the automobile’s gas tank.

– If no vehicle is available, make arrangements with friends or family for transportation outside of the area.

– Fill clean water containers — 5 gallons per person per day.

– Listen to radio or watch television for weather updates as well as disaster sirens and warning.

– Prepare an emergency kit for vehicles with food, flares and other emergency gear.

– Secure or store any items outside which may cause damage property in high winds, such as bicycles, grills, propane tanks.

– Cover windows and doors with wood or place large strips of adhesive tape on the windows to reduce the risk of breakage and flying glass.

– Put livestock and family pets in a safe area. Many emergency shelters cannot accept pets.

– Adjust the thermostat on refrigerators and freezers to the coolest possible temperature.

– If you evacuate, turn off the gas, electricity and water and disconnect appliances.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Bicycles, Electricity, Other, Transportation0 Comments

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