China consumes nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

Stuart at Early Warning points to this article on Chinese coal consumption - good for Australian coal miners (other than when they get flooded each year), bad for everyone else - China consumes nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined

Belgium plans artificial island for wind energy storage  

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Many years ago I started off a post on ocean energy with a look at the "energy island" idea. ReNew Economy has a look at a similar scheme being proposed for Belgium - Belgium plans artificial island for wind energy storage.

Belgium is planning to construct an island in the North Sea for the sole purpose storing wind energy.

Wind farms, when constructed using traditional mainstream methods, will eventually require backup as their electricity market penetration increases, and when wind turbines generate surplus electricity due to unusually high wind speeds (which can happen pretty often) it goes to waste.

“We have a lot of energy from the wind mills and sometimes it just gets lost because there isn’t enough demand for the electricity,” said spokeswoman for Belgium’s North Sea minister Johan Vande Lanotte. “This is a great solution,” the spokeswoman said, adding she thought it could be the first of its kind.

Excess wind power would be used to pump water out of the centre of the island, and it would be allowed to flow back in, but through an electricity generating turbine to augment overall electricity production when there is a shortfall of wind energy. Vande Lanotte revealed these plans at the Belgian port of Zeebrugge late on Wednesday.

Large-scale wind energy storage has been mostly just a thought for many years, worldwide, but Belgium decided to step up to the plate and put it to the test.

The Bicycle Barometer  

Posted by Big Gav in

"Optimise For the Common Case" has a description of a nifty device indicating the best form of transport on a given day in London - The Bicycle Barometer.

The bicycle barometer takes data about the weather, the status of the tube lines I use to get to work, and whether my local station is open or shut.

It then reduces all that data down to a single value and displays it on a dial with a bike sign at one end and a tube sign at the other.

For example, if it is raining a bit the dial will move a bit towards the tube sign, but if the tube is suffering delays, it will move a bit back in the other direction.

Different data points get different weightings. E.g. snow is more important than a bit of drizzle; the tube station being shut trumps everything.

It is built using a Nanode and an old clock I found at a flea market. The data comes from the Met Office’s Datapoint API and Transport for London’s line status and station status API’s.

The code, instructions and design for building one are available here: https://github.com/memespring/bicycle-barometer

3DS sues innovative new 3D printer company Formlabs & Kickstarter for patent infringement  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Boing Boing has a post on the rapidly evolving 3D printing market - 3DS sues innovative new 3D printer company Formlabs & Kickstarter for patent infringement.

3D Systems, one of the big, incumbent 3D printer makers, is suing Formlabs, an innovative new 3D printer company that prints in resin (see previous mentions), for patent infringement. They've also named Kickstarter to the suit.

Many of the key patents in 3D printing start expiring in 2013, and will continue to lapse through '14 and '15. Expect a big bang of 3D printer innovation, and massive price-drops, in the years to come.

Geothermal plant cost potentially cut by 50%  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

ReNew Economy has a post on efforts by AltaRock to reduce the cost of enhanced geothermal power generation by shifting to a single well model - Geothermal plant cost potentially cut by 50%.

Geothermal developers from AltaRock Energy, a Washington state-based company, have been working on creating geothermal reservoirs with their own technology. They have recently made three such reservoirs from a single well, which means there is a greater chance a commercial geothermal plant can be built because with more reservoirs there is greater flow and energy output for each well. With human-made reservoirs expanding the energy output, the overall cost of constructing a geothermal plant could be reduced by 50 per cent.

“The purpose of the Newberry EGS project is to demonstrate AltaRock’s tne technology designed to lower the cost of EGS, and thus allow economic extraction of heat from the earth in locations where high temperatures can be reached by conventional drilling techniques,” said Susan Petty, founder and president of AltaRock. (Source: Fort Mill Times)

These reservoirs are also called stimulated zones or enhanced geothermal systems, and located at the Newberry Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) Demonstration site, which is near an ancient volcano in Oregon. They are created by injecting cold water into hot, low permeability rock to amplify fractures there, which then allows the surface hot water to leak out and fill the human-made reservoirs. (The Department of Energy has contributed over $20 million to their research.)

The potential costs savings results from the ability to create multiple hot water reservoirs from one well or single site. Alta Rock has made Thermally Degradable Zonal Isolation Materials (TZIM) to help create these multiple zones. A biodegradable polymer was used at the Newberry site in a process that was implemented several times. It is possible to do more than three stimulation rounds at one site for reservoir creation.

Nicholas Stern: 'I got it wrong on climate change – it's far, far worse'  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

The Guardian has an interview with Nicholas Stern - Nicholas Stern: 'I got it wrong on climate change – it's far, far worse'.

Lord Stern, author of the government-commissioned review on climate change that became the reference work for politicians and green campaigners, now says he underestimated the risks, and should have been more "blunt" about the threat posed to the economy by rising temperatures.

In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Stern, who is now a crossbench peer, said: "Looking back, I underestimated the risks. The planet and the atmosphere seem to be absorbing less carbon than we expected, and emissions are rising pretty strongly. Some of the effects are coming through more quickly than we thought then."

The Stern review, published in 2006, pointed to a 75% chance that global temperatures would rise by between two and three degrees above the long-term average; he now believes we are "on track for something like four ". Had he known the way the situation would evolve, he says, "I think I would have been a bit more blunt. I would have been much more strong about the risks of a four- or five-degree rise."

He said some countries, including China, had now started to grasp the seriousness of the risks, but governments should now act forcefully to shift their economies towards less energy-intensive, more environmentally sustainable technologies.

"This is potentially so dangerous that we have to act strongly. Do we want to play Russian roulette with two bullets or one? These risks for many people are existential."

Stern said he backed the UK's Climate Change Act, which commits the government to ambitious carbon reduction targets. But he called for increased investment in greening the economy, saying: "It's a very exciting growth story."

Life after Chernobyl  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

The Independent has a look at what Bruce Sterling used to call Chernobyl's "Involuntary Park" - Life after Chernobyl: Sergei Gaschak’s photography from inside 'the zone'.

Sergei Gaschak’s photography offers an unparalleled glimpse at animal life inside “the zone”, the area of Ukraine and Belarus that has been officially closed off to human habitation since the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe of 1986.

Using camera traps to take photographs mechanically, as well as taking photographs personally, Gaschak has captured what few have been able to see with their own eyes – the remarkable diversity of wildlife within the zone.

One of the first rescuers on the site of the nuclear disaster, Gaschak has devoted recent years to photographing lynxes, otters, owls and other wildlife, and has even discovered the footprints of brown bears. The exclusion zone stretches for miles around the site of the reactor, and includes Pripyat, which was once a thriving Soviet town of 50,000 inhabitants but has remained a ghost town since the disaster, a time warp of perestroika-era Soviet life.

More than 300,000 people evacuated the region in the aftermath of the explosion, and only a few hundred stubborn pensioners have returned, defying government bans on settlement inside the zone.

At the time of the disaster, there were few wild animals living in the region around the nuclear plant. But as the humans moved out in the wake of the catastrophe, large mammals appeared and thrived. While the animals showed incredibly high levels of radiation, they still looked normal. There were no giant wolves or three-headed deer.

According to a book on animal and plant life in the zone, A Natural History of Chernobyl, the only abnormalities found in animals has been albino spots and deformities in barn swallows.

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