Tag Archives: clean

Toxicology ratings of smartphones – how toxic is your phone?

Here is a quality piece from iFixit that performs a chemical analysis on 36 smartphones. Which ones are the cleanest?

High technology feels so clean—no coal or steam or mess, just cool aluminum, sleek plastics, and polished glass. But that clean surface hides an interior that is far messier and more toxic…researchers took apart 36 phones and submitted their components to X-ray fluorescence spectrometry…then rated and ranked the phones on a scale of 0 – 5, lowest being best:

Massive wind farm comes online in Oregon – 845 megawatts of clean wind energy

The world’s third largest wind farm just started spinning its turbines in Oregon. Covering more than a thousand acres the 338 wind turbines will create 845 megawatts of clean energy. All of that will be sent down to California for 20 years as part of an agreement with Southern California Edison – who is in need of clean energy to comply with state energy standards, 33% clean energy by 2020.

The name of the project is Caithness Shepherds Flat and it cost $1.9 billion. During construction the project employed more than 400 workers and 45 of those will become permanent full-time positions.

The wind farm will create enough energy to power 235,000 homes. Adding to the growing number of homes powered through clean energy. Recently, wind power in the United States passed the 50 gigawatt milestone, and this project should put that at 51 gigawatts.

A substantial achievement but we still have a long way to go, the United States uses 3,900,000 gigawatts of energy.

 

More information:

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Federal government approves first wave powered project off Oregon coast

The wave park will include 10 buoys stringed together and linked to the coast through an underwater power cable. It is the result of six years of far-sighted research and development, and $10 million of funding.

From One World One Ocean:

Last month, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the country’s first commercial wave energy project off of the coast of Reedsport, Oregon. The 35-year license allows Ocean Power Technologies Inc. (OPT) to build up to ten 140-foot buoys, which will generate 1.5 megawatts of power – enough to power 1,000 homes. The first buoy is expected to be deployed in October.

 

For testing purposes only one PB150 Buoy (pictured below) will be installed 2.5 miles off the Oregon coast. Assuming no problems nine more will be placed in the waves, connected together, and begin lighting up Oregon homes.

 

 

The above picture is pulled from the projects Newsletter and Progress Report (pdf). You can also read about OPT’s technology and coverage from the N.Y. Times.

EPA gets tough, forces all power plants to slash air pollution

Woot! This is good news for all of us, from the NRDC’s report on Toxic Power:

The electric power sector is the largest industrial source of toxic air pollution in the United States. Thanks to new standards by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), toxic pollution from power plants will decline dramatically over the next several years. In fact, some companies have already begun reducing emissions in anticipation of the new standards.

Compared to 2010 levels, the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics standard (MATS) will cut:

  • Mercury pollution from 34 tons to 7 tons, a 79 percent reduction.
  • Sulfur dioxide pollution from 5,140,000 tons in 2010 to 1,900,000 tons, a 63 percent reduction.
  • Hydrochloric acid from 106,000 tons to 5,500 tons, a 95 percent reduction.

 

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How old are U.S. power plants?

We have an aging fleet of power plants:
  • 51% of all generating capacity is 30+ years old.
  • 73% of all coal plants are 30+ years old
  • 24 out of 25 oldest plants (60+ years) are hydropower
  • Nearly all nuclear plants are 20+ years old

Here is a graphic from EIA with more detail. The pie chart shows how much generating capacity comes from each fuel type. The graph shows capacity by year the plant was built.

Notice that hydropower was the first energy source built, the creation of coal plants dominated from 1950 to the mid-80s, and it’s been all natural gas since then.

 

 

But, age may not matter when it comes to operating power plants, from Wiki Answers:
In a nutshell, it is not correct to assign human attributes (e.g., lifetimes) to inanimate objects. Consequently, the operating span of a coal fired power plant can be unlimited since any degraded or failed component can be replaced with a new one. The decision on whether to make a refurbishment, or to build a new plant, is merely a question of relative economics and investment risk. For example, the cost of a single replacement part is almost always less than the cost of replacing the plant. However, in an old plant, there is a risk that many additionally worn parts also will need replacement soon. Plant owners evaluate these tradeoffs each time a major component fails and make the decision whether or not to retire the plant.

American wind power reaches 50-gigawatt milestone

From the AWEA press release:

The 50 gigawatts (GW) online today means that U.S. wind turbines now power the equivalent of nearly 13 million American homes, or as many as in Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia, Alabama, and Connecticut combined. In addition, 50 gigawatts (GW) of wind power capacity:

  • Represents the generating power of 44 coal-fired power plants, or 11 nuclear power plants.
  • Avoids emitting as much carbon dioxide as taking 14 million cars off the road.
  • Conserves 30 billion gallons of water a year compared to thermal electric generation, since wind energy uses virtually no water.

 

To put this into perspective, it is estimated that the United States used 3.9 million gigawatts in 2011.

Now back to the good news, projects recently connected to the grid:

  • Pattern Energy’s Spring Valley wind farm, 30 miles east of Ely, Nevada (151.8 megawatts, or MW)
  • Enel Green Power North America’s Rocky Ridge wind farm in Oklahoma (148.8 MW)
  • enXco’s Pacific Wind project in Kern County, California (140 MW)
  • Utah Associated Municipal Power’s Horse Butte project in Idaho (57.6 MW)
  • First Wind’s Kaheawa Wind II wind farm in Hawaii (21 MW)
50,000 megawatts = 50 gigawatts

 

It took us a long time to hit 10 MW in 2006, then much less to hit 25 MW in 2008, and now, in 2012, we are at 50 MW. The ramp-up continues all over the country as 39 states now have wind power feeding their grids. There is even good news on the “Made in USA” front with 60% of the sourcing coming from home, compared to 25% in 2005.

 

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Wind turbines are going big, real big – latest one is the size of a 747 airplane

Right now wind is leading the renewable energy surge and records for the largest turbines are being set. Just how big is the largest one? Siemens is creating a single blade that is 225 feet long, basically as wide as a 747 airplane.

The manufacturing process is incredible, from Wired UK:

Siemens manufactures the mammoth B75 blades in one, smooth, streamlined piece — with no joints — using its IntegralBlade process. The technique — which requires glass fibre-reinforced epoxy resin and balsa wood to be cast in a mould — renders the blades steadfast and less likely to develop faults while being beaten with 181 tonnes of air energy every second, when wind speeds are ten metres per second (30 mph). The huge strain it is put under means no blade can leave the factory without being carefully inspected for even minor cracks.

 

The size of these things is almost unimaginable, like trying to picture three 747′s spinning around a massive pole. They will also have to shoot up into the sky several hundred meters.

According to Siemens, when fully constructed this mammoth would generate 6-megwatt’s, while another group is looking into 20-megawatt versions!

 

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Why do experts always lowball clean energy projections?

Last month, Michael Noble of Fresh Energy put up a fascinating list of projections made by energy experts around 2000 or so. Suffice to say, the projections did not fare well. They were badly wrong…

What should we take from this?

The projections weren’t just off, they were way off. You can find similarly poor projections from the ’70s that underestimate the spread of energy efficiency and other demand-side technology solutions (They thought they were going to need hundreds of nuclear plants). Similarly terrible projections were also common in the early years of cell phones.

What do cell phones, energy efficiency, and renewable energy have in common? One, they are dynamic areas of technology development and market competition, which makes straight-line projections pretty useless. And two, they are distributed, with millions of loosely networked people and organizations working on them in parallel. Distributed, human-scale technologies come in small increments. They replicate quickly, so there’s more variation and competitive selection, and thus more evolution.

 

Keep reading: Grist - Why do ‘experts’ always lowball clean-energy projections?

 

 

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8 clean energy predictions from a decade ago…that were way wrong

From the Fresh Energy blog and a good reminder that most experts have trouble thinking exponentially.

 

WIND

  • In 2000, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published its World Energy Outlook, predicting that non-hydro renewable energy would comprise 3 percent of global energy by 2020. That benchmark was reached in 2008.
  • In 2000, IEA projected that there would be 30 gigawatts of wind power worldwide by 2010, but the estimate was off by a factor of 7. Wind power produced 200 gigawatts in 2010, an investment of approximately $400 billion.
  • In 1999, the U.S. Department of Energy estimated that total U.S. wind power capacity could reach 10 gigawatts by 2010. The country reached that amount in 2006 and quadrupled between 2006 and 2010.
  • In 2000, the European Wind Energy Association predicted Europe would have 50 gigawatts of wind by 2010 and boosted that estimate to 75 two years later. Actually, 84 gigawatts of wind power were feeding into the European electric grid by 2012.
  • In 2000, IEA estimated that China would have 2 gigwatts of wind power installed by 2010. China reached 45 gigawatts by the end of 2010. The IEA projected that China wind power in 2020 would be 3.7 gigawatts, but most projections now exceed 150 gigawatts, or 40 times more.

SOLAR

  • In 2000, total installed global photovoltaic solar capacity was 1.5 gigawatts, and most of it was off-the-grid, like solar on NASA satellites or on cabins in the mountains or woods.
  • In 2002, a top industry analyst predicted an additional 1 gigawatt annual market by 2010. The annual market in 2010 was 17 times that at 17 gigawatts.
  • In 1996, the World Bank estimated 0.5 gigwatts of solar photovoltaic in China by 2020, but China reached almost double that mark—900 megawatts by 2010.

 

 

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Meet the ‘bots’ of Wikipedia

ClueBot NG, as the bot is known, resides on a computer from which it sallies forth into the vast encyclopaedia to detect and clean up vandalism almost as soon as it occurs.

It is one of several hundred bots patrolling Wikipedia at any given time. Its role in repairing the Supreme Court article illustrates how bots have quietly become an indispensable – if virtually invisible – part of the Wikipedia project.

“Wikipedia would be a shambles without bots,” a Wikipedia administrator known on the site as Hersfold writes in an email.

English Wikipedia alone surpassed four million articles this month. It contains an estimated 2.5 billion words, equivalent to millions of pages, and it is 50 times larger than the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

But the project is so vast, and its maintenance so labour-intensive that it defies the capability of its human administrators and editors to keep it in order.

That is where the bots come in.

 

Keep reading: BBC News Magazine - Meet the ‘bots’ that edit Wikipedia

 

 

 

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