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'Green' Energy Production Makes Advances

NEW YORK, July 15 (UPI) — The United States and Europe added more power capacity from renewable sources like wind and solar than from conventional sources in 2009, a report says.

This year or next, experts predict, the world as a whole will add more capacity to the electricity supply from renewable sources than from traditional sources such as coal, gas or nuclear plants, a report by the U.N. Environment Program said Thursday.

China surpassed the United States in 2009 as the country with the greatest investment in clean energy, the report said, with China’s wind farm development enjoying the greatest investments.

Countries that encourage renewable energy have roughly doubled, the report noted, from 55 in 2005 to more than 100 today, half of them in the developing world.

In 2009 renewable sources represented 25 percent of global electrical power capacity, generating 1,230 gigawatts of the total of 4,800 gigawatts from all sources including coal, gas, nuclear, 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, Nuclear, Other, Solar0 Comments

Floating Ocean Wind Turbines Proposed

COLLEGE PARK, Md., June 30 (UPI) — Wind turbines as a renewable energy source have problems of noise, visual clutter and land use, and one U.S. researcher says moving them offshore is a solution.

Offshore wind farms have been built, but only in shallow water near coasts, and one naval architect wants to go much farther out by placing turbines on floating platforms, a release from the American Institute of Physics said Wednesday.

Dominique Roddier of Marine Innovation & Technology of Berkeley, Calif., has proposed a platform design dubbed “WindFloat” based on existing gas and oil platform designs.

Roddier and his and colleagues published a feasibility study of the design in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, published by the AIP.

Testing of a small scale model in a wave tank showed the platform is stable enough to support a 5-megawatt wind turbine producing enough energy “to support a small town,” Roddier said.

A full-size prototype being built in collaboration with electricity company Energia de Portugal “should be in the water by the end of 2012,” Roddier 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, Other, Wind0 Comments

Discovery is Prepped for Its Final Journey

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., June 24 (UPI) — Kennedy Space Center technicians Thursday removed space shuttle Discovery’s three main engines in order to remove and replace a malfunctioning turbopump.

Workers at NASA’s Orbiter Processing Facility-3 at the space center also tested the shuttle’s power reactant distribution system, which serves Discovery’s electricity-generating fuel cells.

And at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, STS-133 astronauts Tim Kopra and Alvin Drew rehearsed spacewalk procedures Thursday at the facility’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab.??

All that activity is focused on Discovery’s planned Sept. 15 launch on its final scheduled mission into space. However, space agency officials said that date might be moved to Oct. 29, with STS-134 moving to February 2011. NASA said the requested rescheduling is under consideration and an announcement is expected by July 1.

“During space shuttle Discovery’s final spaceflight, the STS-133 crew members will take important spares to the International Space Station along with the Express Logistics Carrier 4,” the space agency said in a statement.

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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Unsealed Solar Cell Operates Eight Months

EDMONTON, Alberta, June 21 (UPI) — Canadian scientists say they have succeeded in increasing the operating life of an unsealed plastic solar cell from hours to eight months.

Researchers from the University of Alberta and Canada’s National Institute for Nanotechnology led by David Rider said they created a longer-lasting, polymer coating for the solar cell’s electrode — which extracts electricity from the cell.

Prior to the polymer-coating breakthrough, the research team said its plastic solar cell could only operate at high capacity for about 10 hours, but their advanced solar cell performed at high capacity for eight months before it was damaged during transit between laboratories.

The research appears in the June 22 issue of the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

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. Accelerating Move to Cloud Computing

GAITHERSBURG, Md., June 14 (UPI) — The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology says it’s been asked to help accelerate the federal government’s move to cloud computing.

Cloud computing is an Internet-based computing system that provides shared software and information to computers and other devices in an on-demand fashion, like the electricity grid, according to Wikipedia.

U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, who requested NIST assistance, said he views the new technology as a means of lowering the cost of government operations, driving innovation and fundamentally changing the way government delivers technology services across the board.

NIST said it’s focused on two major cloud computing efforts — one of which is a collaborative technical initiative known as the Standards Acceleration to Jumpstart Adoption of Cloud Computing. That program is intended to validate and communicate interim cloud computing specifications before they become formal standards.

Another major challenge with cloud computing is to safeguard government data in clouds, especially citizens’ private information. Agencies using cloud computing will still use NIST-developed Federal Information Security Management Act guidelines.

More information is available at http://csrc.nist.gov/groups/SNS/cloud-computing.

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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Simulated 520-day Mission to Mars Begins

MOSCOW, June 3 (UPI) — The European Space Agency says the first full-duration, 520-day simulated mission to Mars started Thursday at Moscow’s Institute of Biomedical Problems.

The project, called Mars500, began at 1:49 p.m. local time (5:49 a.m. EDT) when a six-man crew entered a simulated spacecraft and the hatch was closed. The experiment will run until November next year.

The crew — Diego Urbina and Romain Charles from Europe; Sukhrob Kamolov, Alexey Sitev, Alexandr Smoleevskiy and Mikhail Sinelnikov from Russia; and Wang Yue from China — face a mission that is as close as possible to a real space voyage without leaving the ground, the ESA said. They will live and work like astronauts, eat special food and exercise in the same way as do crews aboard the International Space Station.

The hatch will remain closed until November 2011 and the crew must manage using the food and equipment stored in the facility. Only electricity, water and air will be made available.

Remaining in close quarters for nearly 18 months will likely produce psychological problems, and those are a key part of the experiment in human endurance, officials said.

During the experiment, Urbina and Charles will send diary updates and videos to ESA’s Mars500 site at http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Mars500/SEMUXB5XT9G_0.html.

The first diary entry was published Thursday. It read, in part, “Goodbye sun, goodbye Earth, we are leaving for Mars!”

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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New York Power Grid: Ready for Summer

RENSSELAER, N.Y., May 27 (UPI) — Power company officials in New York say the state’s electricity supplies should be adequate to meet this summer’s expected demand for power.

“New York State is well prepared for summer electricity demand,” said New York Independent System Operator President and CEO Stephen Whitley. “Extreme weather is the dominant factor when it comes to producing very high demand for electricity. Heat waves could produce peak loads this summer to rival those of recent years. However, overall electricity consumption is trending lower as a result of the economic slowdown and New York State’s vigorous energy efficiency initiatives.”

The NYISO forecasts New York’s summer 2010 peak usage will reach 33,025 megawatts, which is 7 percent higher than the 2009 summer peak of 30,844 MW, which, in turn, was the lowest annual peak since 2004 as a result of relatively cooler summer conditions and the economic recession.

Whitley said the peak forecast for this summer would be 2.7 percent (914 MW) lower than the record system peak of 33,939 MW recorded Aug. 2, 2006.

Peak loads are measurements of the average total electric demand by consumers for a one-hour period. One megawatt of electricity can serve approximately 800 to 1,000 homes.

A copy of the NYISO’s Summer Outlook is available at http://www.nyiso.com/public/webdocs/newsroom/other_reports/NYISO_2010_Summer_Outlook_05272010.pdf.

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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New Way to Track Greenhouse Gases Created

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., May 25 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they have created a more accurate method of calculating the change in greenhouse gas emissions that result from land use alterations.

University of Illinois researchers said their new technology takes into account many factors not included in previous methods and addresses the urgent need to accurately assess whether particular land-use projects will increase or decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

The lead author of the study, postdoctoral researcher Kristina Anderson-Teixeira, said the greenhouse gas value of a particular site depends on qualities such as the number and size of plants, the ecosystem’s ability to take up or release greenhouse gases over time and its vulnerability to natural disturbances, such as fire or hurricane damage.

Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

The new approach accounts for emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, expressing their net climatic effect in “carbon-dioxide equivalents” — a common currency in the carbon-trading market. That, Anderson-Teixeira said, allows scientists to compare the long-term effects of clearing a forest, for example, to the costs of other greenhouse gas emissions, such as those that result from burning fossil fuels for transportation, electricity, heat, or the production of biofuels.

The new technology is reported in the journal Global Change Biology.

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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New Method Makes Field-effect Transistors

HOUSTON, May 25 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve made thin films of nanotubes with ink-jet printers to create field-effect transistors — the basic element in integrated circuits.

While the scientists admitted their technique doesn’t exactly scale down to the levels required for modern microprocessors, the Rice University researchers said it will be useful to inventors wishing to print transistors on materials, especially flexible substrates.

The scientists, led by Rice faculty fellow Robert Vajtai and Professor Pulickel Ajayan, said they worked with researchers in Finland, Spain and Mexico using high-end ink-jet printers and custom inks to create their nanotube-based circuitry. They said the process involved analysis of sample circuits printed with single-walled carbon nanotubes functionalized with four types of molecules.

The researchers said they found a single layer of nanotubes-infused ink printed onto a transparent foil didn’t conduct electricity very well. But adding layers increased the connections between nanotubes, and so increased conductivity.

“The key is printing the appropriate number of layers to get the type of conduction you want, either metallic or semiconductive,” Vajtai said, adding researchers made no attempt to separate metallic from semiconducting nanotubes, which greatly simplified the process.

The research was reported in last week’s online edition of the journal Nano.

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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Bacteria in Mud Could Power Fuel Cell

ARLINGTON, Va., May 7 (UPI) — U.S. naval scientists say they’re experimenting with electricity generated from bacteria found in mud and wastewater.

A D-cell battery has about 1 watt of energy, or enough to run continuously for about an hour. A microbial fuel cell could provide the same energy continuously for nine months or longer, the Office of Naval Research said in a release Thursday.

Harnessing the electrical charge in bacteria offers an efficient, clean and reliable alternative to batteries and other environmentally harmful fuel sources, naval research scientist Linda Chrisey told National Public Radio in a recent “Science Friday” segment.

“What we’d like to do is be able to persistently power sensors so that, instead of putting a diver in the water to change a battery, which would happen with some frequency, we could put a device in the water and allow it to sustainably operate for months or even years,” Chrisey 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.

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