Archive | Electricity

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Geothermal Power Gaining Attention

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 (UPI) — The heat in the upper six miles of Earth’s crust contains many times the energy found in all the world’s oil and gas reserves combined, experts say.

Despite the abundance, researchers say, only 10,700 megawatts of geothermal electricity generating capacity have been harnessed worldwide, Inter Press Service reported.

The oil, gas, and coal industries have been providing cheap fuel by omitting the costs of climate change and air pollution from fuel prices, environmentalists charge, so little investment is being made in geothermal energy, which has been growing at scarcely 3 percent a year, the report said.

About half the world’s existing generating capacity is in the United States and the Philippines, with Indonesia, Mexico, Italy, and Japan accounting for most of the remainder. About two dozen countries convert geothermal energy into electricity.

El Salvador, Iceland, and the Philippines get 26 percent, 25 percent, and 18 percent, respectively, of their electricity from geothermal power plants.

In 2006, a team of scientists and engineers assembled by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology assessed U.S. geothermal electrical generating potential.

Geothermal electricity technology involves drilling down to the hot rock layer, fracturing the rock and pumping water into it, and then extracting the superheated water to drive a steam turbine.

The MIT team said the technology would provide enough geothermal energy to meet U.S. needs 2,000 times over.

About 152 power plants are under development in 13 U.S. states and are expected to nearly triple U.S. geothermal generating capacity, now at about 3,000 megawatts.

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.

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China Boosts, Boasts Hydroelectric Power

BEIJING, Aug. 30 (UPI) — China, whose latest hydropower station came on line last week, has laid claim to having the world’s largest hydropower capacity, authorities said.

The inauguration of the Xiaowan hydropower station in China’s southwest Yunnan province was described by Lui Qi, deputy director of the country’s National Energy Administration, as a “great leap forward,” China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The 700,000-kilowatt Xiaowan station is expected to increase China’s installed hydropower capacity to 200 million kilowatts, Xinhua said. The country’s second-largest hydropower project, which cost $5.86 billion, can produce 19 billion kilowatt hours of electricity every year, officials said.

The station will receive water from the Xiaowan dam, the world’s tallest double-arch dam with a storage capacity of almost 530 billion cubic feet.

The Xiaowan is the fourth dam the Chinese have built on the upper part of the Mekong River, which the Chinese call the Lancang, Inter Press Service reported.

Countries on the lower stretches of the Mekong will not share China’s celebrations of its dam-building prowess, activists say. Erratic water levels have been reported in the Mekong since the construction of the dams, affecting livelihoods in riverside villages in Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, critics 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.

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U.S. Energy 'appetite' Trimmed in 2009

LIVERMORE, Calif., Aug. 24 (UPI) — Americans are using less energy overall and availing themselves of more renewable energy sources, a report says.

Data released by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory showed the United States used significantly less coal and petroleum in 2009 than in 2008 while utilizing considerably more wind power.

And while there was a decline in natural gas consumption, solar, hydro and geothermal power use was up, the laboratory said.

“Energy use tends to follow the level of economic activity, and that level declined last year,” A.J. Simon, an LLNL energy systems analyst, said.

“At the same time, higher efficiency appliances and vehicles reduced energy use even further,” he said. “As a result, people and businesses are using less energy in general.”

Wind power increased dramatically in 2009, and since most of that energy is tied directly to electricity generation it helps decrease the use of coal for electricity production, he said.

“The increase in renewables is a really good story, especially in the wind arena,” Simon said. “It’s a result of very good incentives and technological advancements.”

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Posted in Coal, Consumption, Electricity, Geothermal, Natural Gas, Other, Solar, Wind0 Comments

Astronauts' Brains 'tricked' for Training

HOUSTON, Aug. 24 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they can trick the brains of astronauts to simulate the dizzying effects experienced when returning to Earth after a long period in space.

A research group at the National Space Biomedical Research Institute has developed a Galvanic vestibular stimulation system that safely induces the sensory and mobility disturbances commonly experienced by astronauts returning to Earth’s gravity, an institute release said Tuesday.

These disturbances could affect an astronaut’s vision and neurological function, impacting the ability to land a spacecraft. Once on the ground, astronauts often have trouble keeping their balance and walking, researchers said.

The system developed by Steven Moore, an associate professor of neurology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, uses electrodes placed behind the ear to deliver small amounts of electricity to the vestibular nerve, which then sends the signals to the brain, resulting in sensory and motor disturbances.

This makes it an excellent operational training tool, scientists say.

“You can train for spaceflight tasks under normal conditions on Earth, but that will not give you an indication of what an astronaut will feel like,” Moore said. “The GVS system will make mission simulations more realistic. This will be quite useful for astronaut training, especially for astronauts that have not flown before.”

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.

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Study: Energy Self-sufficiency is Closer

BOSTON, Aug. 23 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve made a discovery that could bring the era of energy self-sufficient homes and small businesses one step closer.

Scientists at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society have reported the discovery of a powerful catalyst that would be a key element in inexpensive solar energy systems that could free homes and businesses from dependence on the electric company, a society release said Monday.

“Our goal is to make each home its own power station,” study leader Daniel Nocera said. “We’re working toward development of ‘personalized’ energy units that can be manufactured, distributed and installed inexpensively.

“There certainly are major obstacles to be overcome — existing fuel cells and solar cells must be improved, for instance. Nevertheless, one can envision villages in India and Africa not long from now purchasing an affordable basic system.”

Such systems would use solar panels to generate electricity needed for heating, lighting and cooking during the day. Surplus energy created would be stored in an “electrolyzer” which breaks ordinary water down into hydrogen and oxygen, which would be stored in tanks.

At night, with no energy coming from solar panels, the system would feed the hydrogen and oxygen back into fuel cells that produce electricity.

The newly discovered catalyst can boost the output of the electrolyzer 200-fold, researchers say.

The catalyst has been licensed to a company, Sun Catalytix, which says it is working to develop safe, super-efficient versions of the electrolyzer, suitable for homes and small businesses, within two years.

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, Fuel Cells, Hydrogen, Other, Solar0 Comments

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