Archive | Science, Space, & Technology

'Personalized Solar Energy' Era Nears

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Dec. 17 (UPI) — A Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist says new discoveries are moving society toward the era of “personalized solar energy.”

Professor Daniel Nocera says such an era would involve the focus of electricity production shifting from huge central generating stations to individuals in their own homes and communities.

Nocera predicts global energy needs will double by mid-century and triple by 2100 due to rising standards of living and world population growth. He said personalized solar energy — the capture and storage of solar energy at the individual or home level — could meet that demand in a sustainable way, especially in poorer areas of the world.

Nocera envisions an innovative catalyst that splits water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen that become fuel for producing electricity in a fuel cell. He says the new oxygen-evolving catalyst works like photosynthesis, producing clean energy from sunlight and water.

“Because energy use scales with wealth, point-of-use solar energy will put individuals, in the smallest village in the non-legacy world and in the largest city of the legacy world, on a more level playing field,” he said.

Nocera’s report appears in the journal Inorganic Chemistry.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Hydrogen, Population Growth, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar0 Comments

India's First Commercial Solar Power Plant

NEW DELHI, Dec. 16 (UPI) — India inaugurated Azure Power’s 2-megawatt photovoltaic plant in the state of Punjab, the first privately owned, utility-scale power plant on the Asian subcontinent.

Built under a 30-year power purchase agreement with the Punjab State Electricity Board, the plant will help power 4,000 rural homes for 20,000 people.

Farooq Abdullah, minister of new and renewable energy, said the plant showcases India’s pledge to generate 20,000 megawatts from solar power by 2022 under the country’s national solar mission.

Azure Power is India’s first independent power producer in solar energy. It built the plant, situated on 13 acres of farmland in the village of Awan, in a record six months,

Inderpreet Wadhwa founded Azure Power two years ago after a 15-year career in the United States that most recently included software giant Oracle Corp. The 37-year-old native of Amritsar city in Punjab said he wanted to return home and do something for rural areas in India, where millions of people don’t have reliable electricity.

Azure Power received initial venture-capital funding from Helion Ventures and Foundation Capital.

Wadhwa encountered a number of bureaucratic hurdles in the project, including obtaining signatures from 152 local officials in Punjab, The Wall Street Journal reports. And he ended up paying more than double the market rate for the land, about $420 per acre a year.

Yet Wadhwa is pressing on. His company has also inked agreements with local Indian governments of Gujarat and Harayana to build facilities that can produce a total of 22 megawatts. It is also coordinating with the state governments of Karnataka, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Rajasthan for another 30 megawatts.

“My aim is to be a leading solar power generator in India by offering viable and socially responsible alternatives to conventional sources of energy,” he told the India Business Standard.

About 8 percent of India’s energy comes from renewable sources such as wind and hydropower. Solar power, experts say, has great potential because it can work almost anywhere in India.

But growth in the sector has been hampered somewhat by the high costs of the technology and inability of power companies to obtain sizeable tracts of land for the solar panels.

To encourage more investment in the solar sector, the Indian government is increasing subsidies for solar projects and mandating that state utilities purchase solar power. But some experts say government support won’t help as long as solar technology remains expensive.

“To achieve scale, you’ll need private participation, and that will only happen if the projects are viable without significant state support,” Jai Mavani, head of infrastructure and government consulting at KPMG India, told The Wall Street Journal.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Infrastructure, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Wind0 Comments

NASA, Saudi Arabia Partner on Research

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 (UPI) — The U.S. space agency and Saudi Arabia say they’ve signed a joint agreement calling for collaboration in lunar and asteroid science research.

The agreement between NASA and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology recognizes the Saudi Lunar and Near-Earth Object Science Center as an affiliate partner with the NASA Lunar Science Institute at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

“This collaboration is within the scope of the Memorandum of Understanding on Science and Technology signed between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America last year and later ratified by the Council of Ministers,” said Turki Bin Saud Bin Mohammed Al-Saud, vice president for research institutes at the Saudi science and technology facility.

“The international interest in lunar science and, more recently, near Earth objects led to the establishment of the Saudi Lunar and Near Earth Object Science Center as a focal point for lunar science and NEO studies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he added. “Furthermore, we are looking forward to our expanding collaboration with NASA for the benefit of both countries.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Science, Space, & Technology0 Comments

Solar Power Units Create More Power with Less Sun

KONA, Hawaii, Dec. 14 (UPI) — The world’s first solar thermal plant using proprietary MicroCSP solar panels opened at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii in a major new response to the state’s clean energy initiative.

The thermal energy project spans 3.8 acres in the Kona desert and features 1,000 of the solar panels, the first of their kind, Hawaii-based Sopogy Inc. said.

Through the use of mirrors and optics and an integrated sun tracker, the company claims the panels achieve higher efficiencies than conventional solar panels and are good at gathering energy even in the cloudiest of conditions.

Solar energy is attracting funding and support worldwide amid a scramble for clean energy. As the panels’ manufacturer, Sopogy is poised to replace the “chaotic” solar power installations worldwide with its branded product.

Sopogy has projects operating in Idaho, California, Hawaii and several more across Europe, the Middle East and Asia. However, many of Sopogy’s customers are using the systems as a competitive advantage and have intentionally kept their projects confidential.

Analysts said several factors supported upgrading of conventional solar panels with more efficient and versatile devices that respond to familiar challenges, such as poor sunlight or fragility and unreliability of the equipment.

Sopogy’s branded system also uses a thermal energy storage buffer, the first of its kind, that allows energy to be produced during cloudy periods. The buffer can also transfer energy produced during the day to evening hours.

Sopogy named the project, “Holaniku at Keahole Point” to add local color and to reflect the diversity of the technology’s uses. The Hawaiian term stands for a location that has everything required for self-sufficiency.

Sopogy also believes it is on to an all-round winner with the MicroCSP technology applied in solar power systems. “MicroCSP is an achievement in rugged, modular and cost-effective solar thermal technology,” said Darren T. Kimura, the company’s president and CEO.

Kimura said the completion and demonstration of the 2 megawatt solar thermal project is an important first step toward widening its usage across the world.

Sopogy’s MicroCSP technologies are being used in such diverse applications as process heat, solar air conditioning, rooftop deployment and power generation.

The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative has attracted the attention of the renewable energy industry. Sopogy and its local solar project development partner Keahole Solar Power plan to bring 30 megawatts of MicroCSP power to the state by 2015.

Analysts said competitive pricing of Sopogy’s systems would be crucial to establishing the company into solar thermal energy markets with less cash than Europe’s industrial countries or oil-rich states experimenting with energy diversification.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy, Energy & Fuels, Energy Industry, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar0 Comments

Developing Nations End Copenhagen Boycott

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 14 (UPI) — Negotiations at the U.N. climate change summit resumed Monday in Copenhagen, Denmark, after developing nations returned from a boycott, observers said.

The summit was suspended briefly after G77-China bloc, made up of 130 nations, staged a walkout over what it called a violation of the democratic process by the Danish hosts, but the summit resumed Monday afternoon after delegates from the bloc returned, the BBC reported.

The walkout, however, added to a sense of gloom at the summit, the broadcaster said, describing some delegates as “forlorn” and speaking of much negotiating that still needed to be done.

Developing countries have accused advanced nations of ignoring their concerns at Copenhagen, especially their demands that the Kyoto Protocol — the only international legally binding instrument that has curbed carbon emissions — be extended along with its development money for investment in clean energy projects, the BBC said.

“It has become clear that the Danish presidency — in the most undemocratic fashion — is advancing the interests of the developed countries at the expense of the balance of obligations between developed and developing countries,” G77-China chief negotiator Lumumba Di-Aping told the British broadcaster.

Meanwhile U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu was to unveil an international plan to deploy clean technology in developing countries, White House administrators said.

The $350 million, five-year, broad-based Climate Renewables and Efficiency Deployment Initiative includes measures such as installing solar lanterns in poor households to promoting advanced energy-efficient appliances, The Washington Post reported.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Global Warming & Climate Change, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar0 Comments

GE Turbines Picked for $1.4 Billion Wind Farm in Oregon

NEW YORK, Dec. 10 (UPI) — The United States’ largest-ever wind farm will use $1.4 billion worth of turbines built by General Electric Co., the New York company said Thursday.

A total of 338 GE turbines will power Caithness Energy’s 845-megawatt Shepherds Flat wind farm on 30 square miles near Arlington in north-central Oregon. GE said on its Web site the alternative energy project has received the majority of the government permits it needs to operate and is ready to move into the construction phase with completion expected by 2012.

“This project underscores our commitment to harness the power of wind to meet present and future energy needs while reducing greenhouse emissions,” said Les Gelber, a partner at Caithness Energy. “The Shepherds Flat project will add more renewable energy to the west coast’s energy mix and help the region meet its demand for clean energy.”

The deal announced Thursday marks the U.S debut and largest single global order of GE’s 2.5xl wind turbines, said officials at the company founded by Thomas Edison, the developer of the common incandescent light bulb.

Steve Bolze, president and chief executive officer of GE Power & Water, said the project “highlights our ability to deliver integrated solutions in the clean energy space and it supports our overarching focus to provide first in class technology to our customers.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy, Energy & Fuels, Science, Space, & Technology, Wind0 Comments

Gas Drilling Boom Taints Water Supplies, Say Critics

DIMOCK, Pa., Dec. 8 (UPI) — Local U.S. drinking water supplies are being tainted in a push to drill for natural gas in previously untapped areas, critics say.

In some parts of the United States, such as Pennsylvania’s Appalachian hills, a new extraction method called hydraulic fracturing has resulted in contaminated local water supplies, The New York Times reported.

The tapping of new natural gas supplies through hydraulic fracturing in shale beds has boosted the country’s potential reserves by 35 percent in two years, but the drilling boom has also brought methane contamination to populous areas that have little history of coping with risks posed by drilling, the newspaper said.

While such cases of groundwater contamination have been few so far, environmental groups say that’s because local governments have been slow to react to the boom and aren’t looking hard. Gas companies, however, told the Times that while some of the concerns are valid, their hydraulic fracturing technology is essentially safe.

“It’s a very reliable, safe, American source of energy,” John Richels, president of the Devon Energy Corp., told the newspaper.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Drinking Water, Energy, Natural Gas, Science, Space, & Technology0 Comments

Aviation Safety Group Adds Birds to Priority List

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 (UPI) — A U.S. government-aviation industry safety group added birds to its list of priority issues at the behest of two government entities, officials said.

The Commercial Aviation Safety Team elevated birds to its priority issues after reviewing bird-aircraft incidents, including January’s Hudson River landing of a US Airways jet that hit geese and engine damage caused by birds on a Frontier Airlines plane departing Kansas City Nov. 14, USA Today reported Monday.

The team was asked to urged to do so by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Agriculture Department.

“This is a big flashing beacon,” says Carla Dove, head of the Smithsonian Institution’s bird identification lab. “It’s time to wake up.”

Since the Hudson River accident, the FAA improved bird strike reporting and is writing new, tougher requirements for how airports should combat birds and other wildlife, Kate Lang, FAA’s acting associate administrator for airports, told USA Today.

Airline officials believe the risk from bird strikes remains relatively small but still deserving of more attention, said Basil Barimo, vice president for safety with the large-airline trade group, Air Transport Association.

Bird experts said efforts must be undertaken to develop new technology to track birds and study other ways to lower bird hazards.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Animals, Aviation, Birds, Other, Science, Space, & Technology0 Comments

China Discusses Carbon Emissions and Greenhouse Gases Targets

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 7 (UPI) — As world leaders gathered for the Monday opening of the U.N. climate-change conference in Copenhagen, a Chinese minister said his country’s carbon emissions would peak between 2030 and 2040.

Wan Gang, minister of science and technology, told the Guardian he hoped the maximum output of Chinese greenhouse gases would come as soon as possible within that range.

While Wan’s comments to the newspaper are not official policy, it is the nearest China has ventured in setting a target for when emissions will begin to decrease. Various experts, research groups and academics in China have estimated that emissions could peak between 2020 or 2050, although the government has yet to officially announce a target.

Determining a peak date for developing countries, which are experiencing quickly rising emissions, is a crucial issue for some 192 world leaders meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, Dec. 7-18 to agree on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Under Kyoto, China was exempt from any requirement to control emissions.

“There are some uncertainties here, so it is difficult to say whether it will be in the beginning, the end or the middle, but I can say for sure it will be within that range,” Wan said in predicting the emissions peak occurring between 2030 and 2040. “As the minister of science and technology I would say the sooner the better.”

Wan said unpredictable factors such as the pace of China’s economic growth, increases in urbanization, and the level of scientific strides would affect the timing of the emissions peak. Attaining the earlier date in the range, he added, would be possible if China continued to invest in renewable energy efficiency, implemented carbon capture technology and promoted changes in consumer behavior.

China, the world’s biggest emitter of carbon, will account for approximately 29 percent of total global emissions by 2030, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration,

Beijing announced its first carbon intensity target Nov. 26, saying it would cut carbon emissions per unit of its gross domestic product by between 40 percent and 45 percent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels. Even with this cut, the country’s output of carbon dioxide is expected to increase by about 90 percent if the economy grows by 8 percent.

China’s Nov. 26 announcement “has assisted in triggering fresh momentum” in the days running up to the Copenhagen talks, Nick Nuttall, spokesman for the office of the U.N. Environment Program executive director, told state news agency Xinhua Saturday. “It underscores China’s determination to continue and accelerate the decoupling of CO2 emissions from economic growth,” he said.

Nuttall noted that China’s announcement, alongside commitments and pledges by other countries or blocs like the European Union, Brazil, Mexico and the Republic of Korea, is bringing the opportunity of a decisive agreement in Copenhagen much closer than perhaps was the case only a few months ago.

Xinhua predicts tough negotiations at the Copenhagen meeting.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy, Energy Efficiency, Office, Other, Pollution & Toxins, Science, Space, & Technology, Urbanization0 Comments

MIT's Proposed Green Power Plant

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Dec. 4 (UPI) — Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have proposed a new type of natural-gas electric power plant that could provide electricity with zero carbon dioxide emissions.

The system, based on solid-oxide fuel cells that produce power from fuel without burning it, would not emit any carbon dioxide or other gases into the air. Instead, it would produce a stream of mostly pure carbon dioxide, which could be harnessed and stored underground through carbon capture and sequestration.

The system, proposed by postdoctoral associate Thomas Adams and Paul I. Barton, the Lammot du Pont Professor of Chemical Engineering of MIT, runs on natural gas, considered to be more environmentally friendly than coal or oil. According to the researchers, natural gas is a relatively plentiful fuel source, with proven global reserves expected to last about 60 years at current consumption rates.

Natural gas power plants currently produce an average of 1,135 pounds of carbon dioxide for every megawatt-hour of electricity produced, which is half to one-third the amount emitted from coal plants.

Conventional natural gas plants with CCS typically consume large amounts of water. But the proposed MIT system produces clean water, Adams said, that could be treated to provide potable water.

The system would not require any new technology, but instead would combine existing components or ones that are already well under development, in a novel configuration for which the researchers have applied for a patent.

The basic principles of the plant have been successfully demonstrated in a number of smaller units, including a 250-kilowatt plant. Practical application of such systems, Adams said, is “not very far away at all” and could be ready for commercialization within a few years.

“This is near-horizon technology,” he said in a MIT release.

When it comes to generating electricity, “the cheapest fuel will always be pulverized coal,” Adams said.

Adams and Barton, with funding from the BP-MIT Conversion Research Program, used computer simulations to analyze the relative costs and performance of the system, comparing it to existing or proposed generating systems, including coal-powered systems incorporating carbon capture technologies.

Adams pointed out that when there is some form of carbon pricing — which attempts to take into account the true price exacted on the environment by greenhouse gas emissions — “ours is the lowest price option,” if the pricing is more than about $15 per metric tons of emitted carbon dioxide.

If the cap-and-trade provisions of the Clean Energy and Security Act were enacted, Adams said, the actual price of carbon per ton would vary, as determined by the market.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Coal, Consumption, Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Engineering, Fuel Cells, Natural Gas, Other, Science, Space, & Technology0 Comments

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