Soon, the lit-up skyline will be much whiter because all 250,000 street lights are being switched to LEDs in the biggest retrofit project in the nation.
The switch-over is part of PlaNYC, the city’s climate change mitigation plan. PlaNYC requires the city to cut emissions from government operations 30% by 2017.
Started in 2009 as a pilot, the retrofit is now rolling out across NYC with a completion date of 2017. LEDs already light key corridors, such as FDR Drive – the highway along its east side – and paths that wind through Central Park. They even adorn the city’s bridges.
The $76.5 million project is expected to save $6 million a year in energy costs and $8 million a year on maintenance costs (LEDs last for up to 20 years).
The Empire State Building“s lights are also LEDs:
It is the first project to receive funding from the city’s ACE Program (Accelerated Conservation and Efficiency Initiative). The $100 million competitive program launched this fall to expedite government projects that cutgreenhouse gas emissions. It funds programs that can be quickly implemented on efficiency and clean heating. It awarded $10 million toward the lighting retrofit.
“Using LEDs for street lighting is more than just a bright idea, it’s a necessity for sustainable cities to operate more efficiently while also delivering clearer, better quality light for New Yorkers,” says Transportation Commissioner Sadik-Khan.
Archive for the ‘Alt Energy’ Category
Posted by Xeno on October 30, 2013
Posted by Xeno on October 9, 2013
Researchers at a California lab have got one step closer in achieving self-sustaining nuclear fusion.
If successfully harnessed, fusion – the process which powers the sun – could become an unlimited, and crucially, cheap source of energy.
In order to become a viable, sustainable form of energy, power plants driven with fusion would need to produce more energy than they consume, which has yet to happen.
A group of scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), based at Livermore in California, last month brought self-sustaining fusion closer to becoming reality.
The facility, which served as a backdrop to the movie Star Trek: Into Darkness, uses 192 beams from the world’s most powerful laser to heat and compress a pellet containing Hydrogen fuel until nuclear fusion occurs.
The BBC reports that during a fusion experiment in late September, the team found the amount of energy released via the fusion reaction for the first time exceeded the amount of energy being absorbed by the fuel. This is the first time that this had been achieved in a purpose-built scientific facility.
Scientists have tried to create this kind of controlled nuclear fusion for the past 50 years, however none were successful.
The NIF’s goal is to create a situation where nuclear fusion generates as much energy as the lasers supply, a process known as ‘ignition’.
Currently, ‘inefficiencies’ in the fusion-producing system mean that some of the energy supplied through the laser is delivered to the fuel.
Fusion is markedly different from current methods of obtaining nuclear power, which operate through spitting atoms. This process is known as fission, whereas fusion involves squashing atoms together.
Posted by Xeno on September 26, 2013
A research team in Europe has achieved a world record-setting solar conversion efficiency of 44.7 percent, and assuming that higher efficiency translates into lower costs, it’s yet another indicator that we’re only at the beginning of a long, steep decline in the cost of solar power.
Solar (and wind, for that matter) is already competitive with or cheaper than coal in US markets, and with solar cell efficiency edging this close to the 50 percent efficiency mark, we’re expecting to see those trend lines grow farther and faster in the near future.
44.7% Solar Conversion Efficiency Record
With our usual caveat that there are a number of different solar technologies out there and different ways of measuring conversion efficiency, let’s look at the new record-setting claim. …
The research partnership consists of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, top cutting edge semiconductor manufacturer Soitec, the French R&D organization CEA-Leti, and the Helmholtz Center Berlin.
The basic technology is a multi-junction solar cell, meaning a cell made up of layers of different semiconductor materials in order to capture the widest possible range of the solar spectrum. Multi-junction cells are typically used in concentrator solar systems.
The group of materials used in this particular cell is the III-V group, which refers to their position on the Periodic Table.
The new record is a significant notch up from the team’s previous achievement of 43.6 percent, set just a few months ago. It looks like Soitec made a key contribution in the form of a new bonding process. Fraunhofer ISE Department Head Frank Dimroth explains:
This four-junction solar cell contains our collected expertise in this area over many years. Besides improved materials and optimization of the structure, a new procedure called wafer bonding plays a central role. With this technology, we are able to connect two semiconductor crystals, which otherwise cannot be grown on top of each other with high crystal quality.
The Fraunhofer team better not relax on their laurels, though. They leapfrogged over Sharp, which announced a triple junction cell with 44.4 percent efficiency in the summer, but that doesn’t leave them much breathing room.
Let’s also note for the record that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has been working with the company Amonix to develop a standard for measuring real-world conversion efficiency over a period of time for installed concentrator solar cell systems. Under those calculations, Amonix staked its flag on the world record for CPV systems earlier this year at 35.9 percent.
Posted by Xeno on August 22, 2013
Germany just broke its monthly solar power generation record once again. In July, the grey-skied country logged 5.1 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity from solar power, slightly better than the 5 TWh of electricity generated by wind turbines it produced in January.
As Inhabitat points out, “The accomplishment proves once again that a lack of sunshine is no obstacle to scaling up solar energy — and if the Teutons can produce record amounts of solar power under grey skies, then the potential for countries with sunnier weather and more land mass (like the United States) is limitless.”
This recent milestone is one of many for the country that stands head and shoulders above the rest of the world in its rapid embrace of solar energy. As a point of comparison, Clean Technica notes,
In terms of total solar power capacity per capita, Germany crushes every other country. At the end of 2012, it had approximately 400 MW of solar power capacity per million people, considerably more than #2 Italy at 267 MW per million people, #3 Belgium at 254 MW per million people, and #4 Czech Republic at 204 MW per million, and #5 Greece at 143 MW per million people. The US came it at #20 with about 25 MW per million people.
As Germany strives for a lofty goal of receiving 80 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2050, government subsidies are playing a big role in the rapid growth of renewable energy. Germany’s simple feed-in tariff policy, which pays renewable energy producers (e.g. solar energy producers) a set amount for the electricity they produce under long-term contracts, has driven the solar power boom. As installations continue to outpace government targets, Germany announced it will begin scaling backits feed-in tariff beginning this month.
Germany’s long-term policies to incentivize renewable energy have had a significant impact on reducing the “soft” costs associated with solar installation, such as permitting, inspection, interconnection, financing, customer acquisition. In fact, residential PV systems installed last year in Italy, Australia, and Germany are nearly 40 percent lower than in the U.S.
Soft costs represent approximately half of the total installed cost of residential solar systems here in the U.S., according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), but there are multiple options for reducing these and making solar power more accessible without the use of German-style long-term federal incentives.
America’s own German-style solar boom may be just around the corner. Residential solar installations in 2012 reached 488 megawatts — a 62 percent increase over 2011 installations. Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently toldGreentech Media that solar is growing so quickly, “it could double every two years.” He continued that other renewable sources will supplement solar, “but at its present growth rate, solar will overtake wind in about ten years. It is going to be the dominant player. Everybody’s roof is out there.”…
Posted by Xeno on August 20, 2013
A fungus and E. coli bacteria have joined forces to turn tough, waste plant material into isobutanol, a biofuel that matches gasoline’s properties better than ethanol.
Solar power users considering legal action against WA government after it announces cut to feed-in tariffs
Posted by Xeno on August 9, 2013
Solar power users considering legal action against WA government after it announces cut to feed-in tariffsBy Pamela Medlen
Posted August 09, 2013 17:03:42
Thousands of solar power users in Western Australia are reeling from the State Government’s announcement that it will slash feed-in tariffs.
Some say they won’t be able to pay back the loans they took out to install solar photovoltaic (pv) panels on their homes.
In 2010, the government said it would return 40 cents per kilowatt hour of energy to homes generating solar power that they fed back into the electricity grid for the next 10 years.
In May 2011, they cut that amount to 30 cents for new people signing up to the scheme and then stopped the feed-in tariff altogether last year as the price of solar panels dropped dramatically.
By then, 75,000 West Australians had signed onto the scheme.
Under the changes announced in Thursday’s state budget, those who signed up initially will see their payments drop from 40 cents to 30 cents in October and then to 20 cents next year.
“Our view is that the feed-in tariff is another example of a government program which is non-affordable in the current environment,” Mr Buswell told a press conference.
The Synergy notice sent to solar customers in May 2011 reads: “As an existing residential net feed-in tariff customer, Synergy is pleased to advise that your subsidy rate of 40c/kWh will not change and you will continue to receive 40c/kWh for the net export of electricity for the full term of your 10 year contract.”
Posted by Xeno on August 7, 2013
Natural photosynthesis – the remarkable ability of plants to transform sunlight into useful energy – powers virtually all life on Earth. But that’s not enough for some people.
Caltech chemistry professor Nate Lewis and his colleagues aim to show Mother Nature how it really should be done. Their goal is to produce fuel as energy-dense as gasoline and as friendly to the environment as a daffodil.
“Plants are the wrong color to be optimum energy-conversion machines,” Lewis said. “They should be black likesolar cells, not green.” He also points out that plants max out their energy conversion at only 10 percent of the light intensity available on a bright, sunny day. The remaining 90 percent of the solar energy they receive goes unused.
Nature presumably has good reasons for wasting so much sunlight. After all, a plant only has to harness enough energy to run its own metabolism, not to satisfy the needs of an energy-hungry civilization. But the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), of which Lewis is scientific director, has more ambitious goals. According to Lewis, artificial photosynthesis will compare to what plants do in much the same way that artificial flight compares to what birds do. We take our inspiration from nature and then strive to surpass it.
JCAP, a U.S. Department of Energy “Energy Innovation Hub,” is America’s largest research program dedicated to turning sunshine into fuel. The artificial photosynthesis system it is developing promises to produce energy-packedliquid fuel at 10 times the efficiency of plants, using only sunlight, water and carbon dioxide as ingredients…
Posted by Xeno on July 1, 2013
The material has practical applications in renewable energy storage, electric cars and defence and space technologies.
“Dielectric materials are used to make fundamental electrical components called capacitors, which store energy,” said Associate Professor Yun Liu of the ANU Research School of Chemistry, co-author of the paper detailing the new material.
The new metal oxide dielectric material outperforms current capacitors in many aspects, storing large amounts of energy and working reliably from -190°C to 180°C, and is cheaper to manufacture than current components.
“Our material performs significantly better than existing high dielectric constant materials so it has huge potential. With further development, the material could be used in “supercapacitors” which store enormous amounts of energy, removing current energy storage limitations and throwing the door wide open for innovation in the areas of renewable energy, electric cars, even space and defence technologies,” said Associate Professor Liu.
The material could be particularly transformative for wind and solar power, which can cause problems when fed into the power grid at low demand times.
“Power going into the grid has to balance with the demand for power at any given time,” said co-author Professor Ray Withers. “This means that it is very important to be able to store energy until such time as it is really needed.”
Researchers have been trying to design new dielectric materials to make more efficient energy storage devices for years.
The design process has proven difficult because the materials need to meet three requirements: a very high dielectric constant, meaning they can store a lot of energy; a very low dielectric loss, meaning energy doesn’t leak out and get wasted; and the capacity to work across a broad range of temperatures. …
Posted by Xeno on July 1, 2013
… The vast and glittering Ivanpah solar facility in California will soon start sending electrons to the grid, likely by the end of the summer. When all three of its units are operating by the end of the year, its 392-megawatt output will make it the largest concentrating solar power plant in the world, providing enough energy to power 140,000 homes. And it is pretty much smack in the middle of nowhere.
The appeal of building solar powerplants in deserts like Ivanpah’s Mojave is obvious, especially when the mind-blowing statistics get thrown around, such as: The world’s deserts receive more energy beamed down from the sun in six hours than humankind uses in a year. Or, try this one: Cover around 4 percent of all deserts with solar panels, and you generate enough electricity to power the world. In other words, if we’re looking for energy – and of course, we are – those sandy sunny spots are a good place to start.
But statistics are one thing, building a few thousand gigawatts of solar power is quite another. Deserts are dusty, windblown and remote. So far, only a few hundred megawatts of utility-scale desert solar power have been built. Most projects are in the American Southwest, with a few in the Middle East and north Africa as well. Though progress has been slow and significant technical challenges remain, experts and industry leaders seem to agree that engineering difficulties alone are not holding us back from a big desert solar build-out. “From the technical side, I think we can do it. In fact, I know we can do it,” says Seth Darling, a solar researcher at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago. “I don’t know that we can do it from a policy side, but I sure hope we can.”
Water and dust
On the engineering side, though, Darling says that there are one or two challenges that still could be “deal breakers,” at least for some technologies. The big one is water. Concentrating solar power (CSP) plants, like traditional power plants, need to be cooled to run, and cooling takes water – lots of it. And of course, if water were abundant in the desert, it wouldn’t be the desert. At Ivanpah, on-site wells supply the plant with water, but that solution won’t always be feasible. “I can’t think of any technical way around that unless a dry cooling technology that’s effective and affordable is developed,” Darling says. “No one has really come up with a way to do that.”
For photovoltaics (PV), water is only needed to clean the panels, which brings up the second large problem with desert solar: dust. Solar panels and mirrors need to be cleaned almost daily if efficiencies are to stay where they need to be. Dust is not transparent, so even just one gram of dust per square meter of solar panel area can reduce efficiency by around 40 percent. At that rate, it doesn’t take long in a dusty desert for the problem to become intractable.
In the desert near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates the Middle East’s first large CSP plant recently faced down the dust issue. In order to reach the 100-megawatt-capacity goal of the Shams 1 plant, developers had to add substantially more mirrors to the plant than planned due to dust in the atmosphere. Scott Burger, an analyst at Greentech Media’s GTM Research who focuses on the region, said the plant probably ended up costing three times the initial estimate, thanks in part to dealing with that dust. And now that it is built, Shams 1 sends a series of trucks up and down the lines of 250,000 mirrors every day, using robot arms to spray that precious water and clean away the dust.
I’d start by looking at all the ways life in the desert has evolved to deal with dust. Do the spines and wax of a cactus keep the dust away, for example?
Posted by Xeno on June 30, 2013
Antimatter, created naturally above storm clouds, has now been created by device that uses magnets and tabletop lasers fired at a gold sheet through helium gas.
A team of physicists working at the University of Michigan just published a paper about their device in Physical Review Letters. But basically, it’s small enough to sit on a table and can create positrons – anti-electrons – like its big,big brother, the particle accelerator at CERN. Positrons, if you aren’t familiar, are found around black holes and pulsars.
PhysOrg explains the process in more detail:
The team fired a petawatt laser at a sample of inert helium gas. Doing so caused the creation of a stream of electrons moving at very high speed. Those electrons were directed at a very thin sheet of metal foil which caused them to smash into individual metal atoms. Those collisions resulted in a stream of electron and positron emissions – the two were then separated using magnets.
The researchers report that each blast of their gun lasts just 30 femtoseconds, but each firing results in the production of quadrillions of positrons – a density level comparable to those produced at CERN.
For scale: petawatt is one quadrillion watts, a femtosecond is a one quadrillionth of a second, and a quadrillion is 1,000,000,000,000,000.
The thought is that we can use gadgets like this to study positrons more easily than ever and learn more about those gaping black holes in space and other things like them. … [PhysOrg]
From the Wikipedia antimatter bomb page:
An antimatter weapon is a hypothetical device using antimatter as a power source, a propellant, or an explosive for a weapon. Antimatter weapons do not currently exist due to the cost of production and the limited technology available to produce and contain antimatter in sufficient quantities for it to be a useful weapon. The United States Air Force, however, has been interested in military uses — including destructive applications — of antimatter since the Cold War, when it began funding antimatter-related physics research. The primary theoretical advantage of such a weapon is that antimatter and matter collisions convert a greater fraction of the weapon’s mass into explosive energy when compared to a fusion reaction, which is only on the order of 0.7%. There is considerable skepticism within the physics community about the viability of antimatter weapons. According to CERN laboratories, which regularly produces antimatter, “There is no possibility to make antimatter bombs for the same reason you cannot use it to store energy: we can’t accumulate enough of it at high enough density. (…) If we could assemble all the antimatter we’ve ever made at CERN and annihilate it with matter, we would have enough energy to light a single electric light bulb for a few minutes.”, but this would be a considerable feat because the accumulated antimatter would weigh less than one billionth of a gram.
If those scientists at the University of Michigan made just 12 grams of antimatter they’d have enough energy to light all 12 billion lightbulbs in the world for a few minutes.
Universe Today has this to say:
Antimatter is powerful. Even a tiny amount would create a devastating explosion. Just a kilogram of antimatter would release the same amount of energy as a 20 megaton thermonuclear bomb.
But here’s the problem. Generating antimatter is an incredibly expensive process. It’s been estimated that if you took all of the antimatter ever created in all the particle colliders in the world, you would only have enough to power a lightbulb for a few minutes. To create antimatter on an industrial scale to create an antimatter bomb would require the collective resources of the entire planet. Furthermore, there’s no easy way to store antimatter once you create it, since it will explode with even the slightest touch with regular matter.
There’s no risk of an antimatter bomb ever being created. Perhaps in the distant future, hundreds of years from now, but not any time soon. …
1 kilogram is 1,000 grams so we can estimate roughly that 1 gram of antimatter has the power of a 20 kiloton nuclear bomb. That’s more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima (13 to 18 kilotons).
Scaled up and put to good use this invention might solve world energy problems… unless it takes more energy to generate, separate and store the antimatter than could be recovered using it as a fuel.
Storage is tricky:
“Trapping antihydrogen proved to be much more difficult than creating antihydrogen,” says ALPHA team member Joel Fajans, a scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Accelerator and Fusion Research Division (AFRD) and a professor of physics at UC Berkeley. “ALPHA routinely makes thousands of antihydrogen atoms in a single second, but most are too ‘hot’”—too energetic—“to be held in the trap. We have to be lucky to catch one.”
The ALPHA collaboration succeeded by using a specially designed magnetic bottle called a Minimum Magnetic Field Trap. The main component is an octupole (eight-magnetic-pole) magnet whose fields keep anti-atoms away from the walls of the trap and thus prevent them from annihilating. Fajans and his colleagues in AFRD and at UC proposed, designed, and tested the octupole magnet, which was fabricated at Brookhaven. ALPHA team member Jonathan Wurtele of AFRD, also a professor of physics at UC Berkeley, led a team of Berkeley Lab staff members and visiting scientists who used computer simulations to verify the advantages of the octupole trap….