Maglev Turbines Developed

Renewable energy produced from the wind has garnered much attention and support in recent years but is often criticized for its low output and lack of reliability. But now a super power wind turbine has come along that may be just what the renewable energy industry needs. The MagLev wind turbine, which was first unveiled at the Wind Power Asia exhibition in Beijing, is expected take wind power technology to the next level with magnetic levitation.

Magnetic levitation is an extremely efficient system for wind energy. Here’s how it works: the vertically oriented blades of the wind turbine are suspended in the air above the base of the machine, replacing the need for ball bearings. The turbine uses “full-permanent” magnets, not electromagnets — therefore, it does not require electricty to run. The full-permanent magnet system employs neodymium (”rare earth”) magnets and there is no energy loss through friction. This also helps reduce maintenance costs and increases the lifespan of the generator.

Maglev wind turbines have several advantages over conventional wind turbines. For instance, they’re able to use winds with starting speeds as low as 1.5 meters per second (m/s). Also, they could operate in winds exceeding 40 m/s. Currently, the largest conventional wind turbines in the world produce only five megawatts of power. However, one large maglev wind turbine could generate one gigawatt of clean power, enough to supply energy to 750,000 homes. It would also increase generation capacity by 20% over conventional wind turbines and decrease operational costs by 50%. If that isn’t enough, the maglev wind turbines will be operational for about 500 years!

Construction began on the world’s largest production site for maglev wind turbines in central China on November 5, 2007. Zhongke Hengyuan Energy Technology has invested 400 million yuan in building this facility, which will produce maglev wind turbines with capacities ranging from 400 to 5,000 Watts. In the US, Arizona-based MagLev Wind Turbine Technologies will be manufacturing these turbines. Headed by long-time renewable energy researcher Ed Mazur, the company claims that it will be able to deliver clean power for less than one cent per kilowatt hour with this new technology. It also points out that building a single giant maglev wind turbine would reduce construction and maintenance costs and require much less land than hundreds of conventional turbines. The estimated cost of building this colossal structure is $53 million.

by Mahesh Basantani at Inhabitat.com



Motorhead Messiah

Will Femia listed this article on his Clicked weblog earlier this week, and we can't recommend it highly enough:

Motorhead Messiah: "Johnathan Goodwin can get 100 mpg out of a Lincoln Continental, cut emissions by 80%, and double the horsepower. Does the car business have the guts to follow him?"

For readers with science interests it describes the creative ways this guy changes the car/truck engines to make them more powerful and efficient.

For readers with political leanings, it's a compelling story of our country's self destructive addiction to oil.

For readers who like human interest items, this guy dropped out of school in the 7th grade.

For readers who look for stories about the environment, this article is the kind that keeps your hopes vested in the cause.

Good stuff. Click here to read the article.



More CFL Facts

According to ENERGY STAR, if every American home replaced just one standard light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL), we would save more than $600 million in annual energy costs (enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year) and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars.

  • CFLs use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.
  • Save $30-60 or more in electricity costs over each bulb's lifetime.
  • Produce about 75 percent less heat, so they're safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling.
  • ENERGY STAR Qualified CFL savings example:*,

Expenditures ENERGY STAR (26-Watt CFL) Standard Incandescent (100-Watt bulb)
Initial Investment$3.00$0.35
Energy Cost$20.80$80
Replacement Cost$0$3.50
Total Cost
Savings per Bulb

*Based on 8,000-hour CFL life and 750 hour incandescent life. NOTE: When comparing incandescent or halogen bulbs to CFLs, compare the light output or lumens and not Watts. Watts equal the energy used, not the amount of light.



Real Energy Savings

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." Leo Tolstoy

If every household in the United States replaced incandescent bulbs with fluorescent bulbs in just one room in their home, the nation would save more than 800 billion kilowatts of energy and keep one trillion pounds of greenhouse gases out of the air. The energy savings would be equivalent to the annual output of more than twenty power plants. Fluorescent and compact fluorescent lamps are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, but because they last six to ten times longer and save energy, they save the consumer money in the long run.

These are the savings that would occur with one lightbulb changed. Can you imagine what would happen if we all changed five light bulbs? That's the first of five things our federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is recommending to make homes more energy-efficient and help the environment. EPA is also urging consumers to look for home electronics and appliances that have earned the ENERGY STAR; heat and cool their homes wisely; seal and adequately insulate their homes; and tell family and friends to help spread the word that energy efficiency makes sense.



Global Warming Solutions

In a recent, thought-provoking article, Dr. Nina Pierpont writes:

As an ecologist, I’ve known about global warming since the 1970’s, especially in the work of certain marine scientists who began studying and modeling global carbon cycling forty years ago. The earth’s fossil record makes it clear that the earth has cycled back and forth between warmer epochs and colder throughout its history. At certain times the earth has been tropical to the poles.

There is no doubt that we are in a significant warming stage and that the human role in this is
critical, by releasing to the atmosphere enormous amounts of carbon locked up by trees and plants eons ago into oil and coal. Not only the burning of fossil fuels, but the destruction of forests also disturbs the carbon balance, on the other side. Forests are carbon “sinks,” reabsorbing carbon from the atmosphere and locking it up again into wood and leaves, cellulose and lignin. The energy in wood is the sunlight of past summers, but the substance is carbon from the air.

Global warming means not only more marked heat waves and melting glaciers and ice caps, but also increased variation in the weather. There is more energy in the atmosphere and hydrosphere not only for high temperatures, but also for more air movement, more wind, more storms, and greater swings between warm and cold, as air masses replace each other quickly and vigorously.

But wind generation is not the solution, even in a gustier world.

To appreciate a cogent, comprehensive, and remarkably concise analysis of the situation, click here to read the entire 2-page article.

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Organic Solar Cells

Higher efficiency organic solar cell created

Using plastics to harvest the energy of the sun just got a significant boost in efficiency thanks to a discovery made at the Center for Polymers and Organic Solids at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Nobel laureate Alan Heeger, professor of physics at UC Santa Barbara, worked with Kwanghee Lee of Korea and a team of other scientists to create a new “tandem” organic solar cell with increased efficiency. The discovery, explained in the July 13 issue of the journal Science, marks a step forward in materials science.

Tandem cells are comprised of two multilayered parts that work together to gather a wider range of the spectrum of solar radiation – at both shorter and longer wavelengths. “The result is six and a half percent efficiency,” said Heeger. “This is the highest level achieved for solar cells made from organic materials. I am confident that we can make additional improvements that will yield efficiencies sufficiently high for commercial products.” He expects this technology to be on the market in about three years.

Heeger and Lee have collaborated for many years on developing solar cells. The new tandem architecture that they discovered both improves light harvesting and promises to be less expensive to produce. In their paper, the authors explain that the cells “… can be fabricated to extend over large areas by means of low-cost printing and coating technologies that can simultaneously pattern the active materials on lightweight flexible substrates.”

The multilayered device is the equivalent of two cells in series, said Heeger. The deposition of each layer of the multilayer structure by processing the materials from solution is what promises to make the solar cells less expensive to produce.

“Tandem solar cells, in which two solar cells with different absorption characteristics are linked to use a wider range of the solar spectrum, were fabricated with each layer processed from solution with the use of bulk heterojunction materials comprising semiconducting polymers and fullerene derivatives,” wrote the authors.

The cells are separated and connected by the material TiOx, a transparent titanium oxide. This is the key to the multilayer system that allows for the higher-level efficiencies. TiOx transports electrons and is a collecting layer for the first cell. In addition, it acts as a stable foundation that allows the fabrication of the second cell, thus completing the tandem cell architecture.

Heeger shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in the year 2000, with Alan MacDiarmid and Hideki Shirakawa, for the “discovery and development of conducting polymers.” The tandem solar cells reported in the Science article utilize semiconducting polymers from the class of materials that were recognized by the award of the Nobel Prize.

With Howard Berke, Heeger in 2000 co-founded Konarka Technologies, based in Lowell, Mass., to develop and market solar cells based on this technology.

Heeger recently was presented with the Italian Prize for Energy and the Environment (Eni Italgas Prize) for his discoveries and research accomplishments in the field of “plastic” solar cells. The Italian agency cited Heeger “for research that will begin to contribute to the energy needs of our planet in the near future.”

An exciting aspect of the latest discovery is that it is expected to contribute to third world usage of technologies such as laptop computers in areas that are “off the electricity grid.”

Source: University of California - Santa Barbara



Problems with Biofuels

Biofuels may threaten rainforests

According to an April 26, 2007 article in London's Financial Times, a European plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may create other problems:

"In a bid to solve one problem, we risk creating another, and making things worse. Rainforest destruction is a major contributory factor in global warming and it would be ludicrous to promote this loss to slake our thirst for fuel," said Chris Davies.

If it isn't one thing, it's another. Click here to read a PDF copy of the report.

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Let There Be Light

Incandescent or fluorescent?
What would Edison do?

This month's Smithsonian Magazine has an essay addressing the question:

Live long enough, and technologies that once seemed immortal fade into oblivion, often taking a piece of your heart with them: the 45 rpm record, the transistor radio, photographic film, a typewriter left at the curb to be anointed by passing dogs... Still, there's always something poignant when a pear-bodied vestige of our past gives way to a younger rival once dismissed as clunky and cold, and now revealed in a slimmer, smarter, sexier new form. I am talking about the impending demise of the incandescent light bulb, at the hands of the compact fluorescent lamp.
Click here to read Richard Conniff's article and learn more about how you can stop wasting electricity and save money at the same time.

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What about biofuels?

Corn Can't Solve Our Problem

The world has come full circle. A century ago our first transportation biofuels - the hay and oats fed to our horses - were replaced by gasoline. Today, ethanol from corn and biodiesel from soybeans have begun edging out gasoline and diesel.

This has been hailed as an overwhelmingly positive development that will help us reduce the threat of climate change and ease our dependence on foreign oil. In political circles, ethanol is the flavor of the day, and presidential candidates have been cycling through Iowa extolling its benefits. Lost in the ethanol-induced euphoria, however, is the fact that three of our most fundamental needs - food, energy, and a livable and sustainable environment - are now in direct conflict. Moreover, our recent analyses of the full costs and benefits of various biofuels, performed at the University of Minnesota, present a markedly different and more nuanced picture than has been heard on the campaign trail.

Interested in alternative renewable energy sources? Before you fill out Mark Densmore's simple "Renewable Energy Survey" on the Yes! Wind Power website he maintains for UPC supporters, you might want to enter the discussion of biofuels through this informative article by Tilman and Hill in Sunday's Washington Post. Be sure to continue by reading the comments that follow. Then go back and try out Mark's survey. This whole subject isn't quite as simple as it might appear, is it?

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New Solar Technology

Two companies join up to deploy 19th-century technology at the solar front.

Who could have guessed that a 191-year-old engine design would become the newest ally of the solar revolution? Under a recent co-development deal, Solana Beach, California-based Open Energy and Kennewick, Washington-based Infinia have joined forces to provide a novel source of cheap electricity and clean drinking water. The idea centers on using Open Energy’s SunCone solar concentrators to produce steam to power Infinia’s Stirling engines hitched to electric generators. The result: virtually free electricity with no burning of fossil fuel and no greenhouse gases.

Click here to read the whole story by Gar Smith in the February 26, 2007 issue of Red Herring. Is it possible that much better technology is right around the corner, just waiting to poke a hole in the promises of wind power and render the wind turbines of the early 21st Century obsolete?



Energizing the Future

One of the last reports NYS Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi oversaw before his administration was overcome with scandal was issued in December 2005 and entitled "The Benefits of Renewable Energy for New York State." In it he notes the political goal set by the NYS Public Service Commission in 2004 of achieving 25% of the State's electrical energy from renewable resources by 2013 (including, in addition to hydropower, "new renewables" like solar, wind, and biomass). The report indicates that California's goal is 20% by 2010, while New York has already achieved that goal primarily with clean hydropower. It then goes on to investigate the economic ramifications of investing more taxpayer subsidy in "new renewables." Nothing is said about nuclear power, which is clean but uses an ore that is not technically renewable.

Overall, the report is thorough, if somewhat dated. One question that's begged is how the PSC chose its 25% goal. In our real world, this is probably how: it's a round number that rolls easily off the tongues of politicians - increase by 5% over 10 years - not 3% or 4% or 6%, but a nice, round 5%.

Since 2004 much more experience is available from nations that have already invested more heavily in wind power than we have in the US. What's been learned from our European neighbors is that wind power does not displace conventional generating capacity, which must always be available "on line" to kick in whenever the wind dies down. It's difficult, at best, to turn hydropower or nuclear plants on and off and not economical, clean, or easy to run fossil fuel plants on a variably intermittent basis. A factory, office building, or home could never rely on wind power for its electrical needs.

Unfortunately, Mr. Hevesi's analysts focus only on economic speculations that make little distinction between sources of power: to them each MW generated is equivalent, no matter what its source or when it's available to the grid. As a result, sources like solar (which only generates when the sun shines) and wind (which only generates when the wind blows) are simply added interchangeably to the mix with biomass and conventional power. And of the former two, wind is by far the more variable, endlessly taxing the grid's ability to adapt to its intermittent contributions.

The report sagely notes that wind farm projects in the New York, including those "in both Chautauqua and Steuben counties" have run into significant local opposition. It goes on to note: "Prior to its expiration at the end of 2002, a review process for siting generation facilities with a capacity of 80 MW or more was set forth in Article X of the New York State Public Service Law. A renewal of Article X would provide for the disclosure and debate of concerns about construction and operation of larger-scale renewable energy projects, and also, as previously designed, guarantee opportunities for public involvement. In addition to the requirement that those entities applying to construct generating facilities must carry out a meaningful public involvement program, Article X provided for the creation of an intervenor fund for each project. Proceeds from the intervenor funds were distributed to municipal and other local parties to help defray the expenses of expert witnesses and consultants." Contrary to the Hevesi Report's recommendations, however, Article X was not renewed, and localities throughout the state have been left to their own inadequate resources in evaluating the well-funded sales pitches of private wind power speculators.

Looking at greenhouse gas reduction by cutting back on fossil fuel generation, what is needed first are diligent applications of conservation, like New York's STAR program, accompanied by deeper investment in reliable alternative technologies like safe 21st century nuclear power. If we go on slavishly applying ideas that seemed progressive 3 years ago and ignoring the experience of our European brothers and sisters until our beautiful land is littered with hundreds if not thousands of dysfunctional wind turbines, then we'll discover for ourselves the folly of it all: we will have filled our beautiful recreational areas with noisy machinery and ruined our viewscapes at taxpayer expense all for nothing but a clutter of obsolete equipment rapidly depreciating on our hilltops and shorelines. For those with a living hope for our future, there must be a better way.



How to save on emissions

According to Foreign Policy, "Microsoft could save 45 million tons of CO2 emissions with a few lines of computer code." Their suggestion is to install "deep hibernation" on all Microsoft PCs so that when they sit idle overnight they use less energy. This is the kind of thinking we need more of, plans to reduce the demand for energy. Wind farms, while an apparently appealing approach to some, are a classic example of what environmentalists call an "end-of-the-pipe solution". Instead of tackling the problem - our massive demand for energy - at source, they claim they will provide less damaging means of accommodating it. Read the full article here.

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