12 Feb 2013:
Norwegian Retrofit Seeks
To Create ‘Energy-Positive’ Office Buildings
Two office buildings in Norway are being retrofitted so they will generate more power than they use
when the project is completed next year. The three- and four-story buildings, in the town of Sandvika, near Oslo, will generate geothermal and solar energy on site, making the buildings “energy positive,” according to the project's backers. The retrofit will use a heat-retaining black façade, top-quality insulation to reduce energy use by up to 90 percent, and an interior design that will allow air to circulate without fans. “We believe this is the first time in the world that a normal office block is being renovated to such strict standards,” Svein Brandtzaeg, chief executive of Norsk Hydro, one of the project’s partners, told Reuters. According to the UN Environment Programme, the building industry has the greatest potential of any economic sector for large cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
07 Feb 2013:
Wind Energy Now Cheaper
Than Fossil Fuel Power Plants in Australia
Unsubsidized wind power is now cheaper than electricity produced from new coal- and natural gas-fired power stations
in Australia, according to an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The study said that electricity can be supplied from a new wind farm at a cost of 80 Australian dollars per megawatt hour, compared to 143 Australian dollars from a new coal plant and 116 Australian dollars from a new natural gas plant. Even without a recently imposed carbon price, wind energy is 14 percent cheaper than new coal power and 18 percent cheaper than new natural gas, the study said. The analysis said that Australia’s largest banks are unlikely to finance new coal plants because of concern over emissions-intensive investments and that natural gas has become expensive as Australia exports more liquid natural gas. By 2020, the report said, large-scale solar arrays will also be cheaper than coal or gas when carbon taxes are figured in. “The perception that fossil fuels are cheap and renewables are expensive is now out of date,” said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
05 Feb 2013:
Sea Urchins Offer a Clue
To New Way to Capture Carbon Dioxide
British researchers have discovered that sea urchins use nickel particles on their exoskeletons to effectively capture CO2 and turn it into a solid form, an intriguing finding that could offer an inexpensive way to capture and store carbon
from fossil fuel-fired power plants. Scientists from Newcastle University were studying how marine organisms absorb CO2 to make shells and skeletons when they discovered that sea urchin larvae have a high concentration of nickel on their exoskeletons, which helps them absorb CO2. When the researchers added nickel nanoparticles to CO2-saturated water, they discovered that the nickel completely removed CO2 and turned it into calcium carbonate
, a chalk-like mineral. Current efforts to capture and store carbon dioxide from power plants involve either pumping it underground or using an enzyme called carbonic anhydrase to convert it to calcium carbonate. But both methods are expensive, and the Newcastle researchers say that using nickel to capture and store CO2 bubbled through water could be a thousand times cheaper than employing carbonic anhydrase. “It seems too good to be true, but it works,” said Lidija Siller, a physicist at Newcastle. The research was published in Catalysis Science & Technology.
01 Feb 2013:
U.S. Carbon Emissions
Fall To The Lowest Level Since 1994
The continuing expansion of renewable energy technologies, advances in energy efficiency, and the rapid shift from coal to natural gas for generating electricity combined to bring down U.S. carbon dioxide emissions last year to their lowest levels since 1994
, according to a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The report said that CO2 emissions fell 13 percent in the last five years alone, which means that the U.S. is now more than halfway toward reaching President Obama’s goal of cutting emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. The Bloomberg report said that while the shift from burning coal to natural gas is a significant factor in the U.S.’s continued emissions reductions, the adoption of renewable energy technologies is also playing an important role. The report said the cumulative installed solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass-based energy sources in the U.S. reached 86 gigawatts last year,
compared with 43 gigawatts in 2008. Another growing source of emissions cuts is adoption of hybrid and electric vehicles, with 488,000 people in the U.S. purchasing these energy-efficient cars last year.
31 Jan 2013:
Massive UK Wind Turbines
Are a Sign of ‘Super-sizing’ of Wind Power
Two of the world’s largest wind turbines, with blades 60 meters (196 feet) long, have been installed off the Yorkshire coast, a sign of a growing trend toward producing colossal wind turbines to boost generating capacity.
The 6-megawatt turbines, manufactured by Siemens, are so large that they had to be installed using a specially built ship
, Siemens said. The pair of turbines is being erected on an experimental basis to gauge how they perform, but the operator of the offshore wind farm, the Denmark-based DONG energy group, has plans to install dozens more so that production will reach 210 megawatts at the site, located about five miles offshore. DONG says it intends to eventually install 300 of the massive turbines by 2017 at various offshore locations in the U.K., including some in deeper waters. Energy analysts say the 60-meter Siemens turbines reflect growing interest among wind energy companies to deploy ever-larger turbines, with plans in the works to manufacture turbines 100 meters long.
25 Jan 2013:
German Plant to Produce
Methane Using Surplus Green Energy
Audi is building a plant in Germany that will use surplus power produced from renewable sources, such as wind energy generated when demand is low, to produce methane from water and carbon dioxide
. The plant, which will use technology developed by Stuttgart-based SolarFuel, reportedly will produce enough methane to run 1,500 of the new natural-gas vehicles Audi is planning to start selling this year. To produce the methane, the company will utilize a combination of technologies: electrolysis, in which water is split into its hydrogen and oxygen components, and methanation, in which the hydrogen is combined with carbon from carbon dioxide to produce methane. While the combined process would normally be considered impractical because of inefficiencies, the availability of excess energy from renewable sources in Germany, which has increased from 150 gigawatt-hours per year to 1,000 in two years, makes the process economically feasible, according to a report in MIT’s Technology Review
. “That’s electricity that we could use for nothing,” said SolarFuel’s Stephan Rieke.
24 Jan 2013:
Solid Electrolyte Could Lead
To Larger, Safer Lithium Ion Batteries
U.S. researchers have developed a high-performance, solid electrolyte for use in energy-dense lithium ion batteries that they say is safer than existing liquid electrolytes and could lead to batteries that are five to 10 times more powerful than existing batteries
. While lithium-ion batteries typically utilize liquid electrolytes to conduct the lithium ions between the positively charged cathode and the negatively charged anode, the liquid materials pose flammability risks — especially as engineers attempt to make more powerful lightweight batteries. Utilizing a chemical process known as nanostructuring, scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) say they were able to create a nanoporous solid electrolyte that conducts ions 1,000 times faster than in its natural bulk form, enabling more energy-dense batteries. According to the researchers, this innovation could allow engineers to develop pure lithium anodes, which could yield batteries that are far more powerful than those using carbon-based anodes.
15 Jan 2013:
Key Offshore Transmission Line
To Be Built For U.S. East Coast Wind Power
A group of prominent U.S. investors, including Google, is expected to announce today that it is moving forward with construction on the first leg of an ambitious $5 billion undersea transmission line
that will connect
Atlantic Wind Connection
New Jersey Energy Link
future offshore wind farms along the mid-Atlantic coast, a project they say will avert the regulatory hurdles required in connecting each individual wind farm to land-based electricity lines. The first segment of the project, which will occur in three phases, includes construction of a 189-mile transmission cable along the New Jersey coast. Coordinators of the project, known as the Atlantic Wind Connection, say the cable would deliver more than 3,400 megawatts of electric capacity
from future offshore wind projects to three locations in New Jersey. Construction is expected to begin in 2016, according to the sponsors. The project intends to eventually link offshore wind farms with electricity grids from Virginia to New York.
14 Jan 2013:
Tidal Energy Can Meet 20%
Of UK Electricity Needs, Study Says
UK officials are underestimating the vast energy potential of marine tides
, a renewable and reliable energy source that could meet 20 percent of the nation’s
Kawasaki Heavy Industries
electricity needs, according to a new report. Writing in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A
, researchers explain that while the process of exploiting tidal energy remains expensive, it has the potential to be a more reliable energy source than wind or wave energy and to be more easily managed on electricity grids. While the technology is in the early stages, the researchers say they are optimistic that the two principle means of exploiting tidal energy — construction of barrages across tidal estuaries that generate power from the ebb and flow of the water, and adding underwater turbines in fast-flowing currents — can be implemented in the near future. “From tidal barrages you can reasonably expect you can get 15 percent of UK electricity needs,” Nicholas Yates, a researcher at the National Oceanography Centre and co-author of the report, told BBC News
11 Jan 2013:
California Solar Rebate
Program Reaches 1-Gigawatt Milestone
California homeowners and businesses, taking advantage of a state rebate program that encourages the installation of solar panels, are now generating 1 gigawatt — or 1,000 megawatts — of electricity, roughly the equivalent of a nuclear power plant, state regulators say. Launched in 2007, the $2.4 billion California Solar Initiative
has offered rebates as high as $2.50 per watt to businesses and homeowners who installed solar panels, with a target of generating 1,940 megawatts by the end of 2016. According to state data, the program so far has encouraged the installation of 1,066 megawatts, more solar capacity than any other state and more than most countries. While the state incentive has fallen by as much 92 percent since the program was introduced, the number of applications continues to increase as the price of solar power installations falls, the San Francisco Chronicle reports
. When the program started six years ago, residential solar systems cost about $9.76 per watt; they now cost about $6.19 per watt.
08 Jan 2013:
Using Fireflies As a Model,
Scientists Boost Efficiency of LED Lights
Drawing inspiration from the structure of a firefly, scientists say they have improved the efficiency of a light-emitting diode (LED) by 55 percent
. While studying the insects, the researchers noticed that
LED inspired by fireflies
a pattern of sharp, jagged scales on the fireflies’ bodies enhanced the amount of light emitted by the fireflies’ lantern, an abdominal organ that creates the flashes of light to attract mates. After mimicking that structure in the production of a LED design, the researchers found that the amount of light extracted was significantly increased. Light-emitting diodes are made from semi-conductors and represent a major advance in lighting efficiency over traditional incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescent bulbs. “The most important aspect of this work is that it shows how much we can learn by carefully observing nature,” said Annick Bay, a Ph. D. student at the University of Namur in Belgium and one of the authors of a paper published in the journal Optics Express
03 Jan 2013:
Methane Leak Data Highlights
Concerns About Natural Gas Drilling
A pair of ongoing studies show unexpectedly high methane leakage
from some oil and gas fields in the U.S., findings that underscore concerns that the climate benefits of the natural gas boom may be overstated. Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder say new data indicates that as much as 4 percent of methane from a production area in Denver is leaking into the atmosphere, echoing findings first reported in a much-disputed study published last year in the Journal of Geophysical Research
. A separate field study in Utah suggested even higher methane leakage rates of 9 percent. The calculations were made based on aerial and ground-based measurements and atmospheric models that estimated the level of emissions required to produce the recorded concentrations. “We were expecting to see high methane levels, but I don’t think anybody really comprehended the true magnitude of what we would see,” said Colm Sweeney, of the federal Earth System Research Lab Aircraft Program.
02 Jan 2013:
U.S. Wind Tax Credit
Extended in ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Compromise
The last-minute tax deal brokered by U.S. lawmakers to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff” included a one-year extension of the wind energy tax credit, a subsidy that industry officials say is critical for the growth of the wind energy sector. The bill, which now awaits President Obama’s signature, preserves the 2.2-cents-per-kilowatt-hour credit for all wind energy projects that begin construction in 2013
, allowing projects that are not completed until 2014 to qualify, as well. While the wind energy sector achieved record growth in 2012 — accounting for 44 percent of all new electricity generating capacity in the U.S.
— industry leaders say the possible expiration of the tax credit forced some turbine manufacturers to idle factories and lay off workers during the latter half of 2012. The lack of a long-term federal policy has created “a ‘boom-bust’ cycle” in the wind energy sector
for more than a decade, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), a trade organization.
20 Dec 2012:
‘Peel-and-Stick’ Solar Cells
Expand Potential for Photovoltaic Systems
Stanford University researchers say they have developed a “peel-and-stick” solar cell that can be attached to a variety of hard surfaces
, an innovation they say could vastly expand the potential for solar
Click to enlarge
Chi Hwan Lee/Stanford School of Engineering
“Peel-and-stick” solar cells
energy technology. Normally, thin-film solar cells are attached to rigid, often heavy, silicon and glass substrates because most unconventional surfaces aren’t compatible with the thermal and chemical processes involved in producing the cells. The new process gets around that challenge, the scientists say, because it does not require any fabrication to occur on the final substrate surface. Instead, it involves pressing an ultra-thin film of nickel, a silicon/silicon dioxide wafer, and a protective polymer into a “sandwich,” and then attaching a layer of thermal release tape. When dipped in water, the thin-film solar cell can be peeled from the original wafer and attached to a wide range of surfaces, from window glass to cellphones, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports
18 Dec 2012:
Coal May Rival Oil As
World’s Top Energy Source by 2017, IEA Says
Coal could rival oil as the world’s largest energy source within five years as consumption continues to climb in most regions of the world, a trend that could have profound effects on the climate, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says
. While coal consumption is expected to decline in the U.S., where it increasingly has been displaced by ample supplies of natural gas, that reduction in U.S. coal burning has helped drive down coal costs globally
. According to the IEA’s annual Medium-Term Coal Market Report
, the world will burn about 1.2 billion more tons of coal annually by 2017 than it does today. The surge in coal consumption will be driven largely by China and India, with China projected to pass the rest of the world in coal demand within five years, and India predicted to pass the U.S. as the world’s second-biggest coal consumer. Without a high carbon tax, the report says, only competition from cleaner natural gas will reduce coal demand.
14 Dec 2012:
Car-Mounted Sensor Able to
Pinpoint Sources of Natural Gas Leaks
A U.S.-based company has developed a sophisticated sensing technology capable of detecting and pinpointing the source of even minor natural gas leaks from great
distances, an innovation that could provide critical insights into the still largely unknown climate impacts of natural gas drilling. Using a car-mounted system — which combines an advanced methane detector, wind-direction sensors, isotope detectors, and specially developed algorithms — technicians from California-based Picarro
are able to collect data on concentrations of methane, a major component of natural gas, at regular driving speeds. The so-called Picarro Surveyor technology logs the data and, in real time, plots the source of natural gas leaks using Google Maps. In a recent survey, the system identified more than 3,350 specific locations in Boston where methane levels were 15 times higher than normal, according to MIT’s Technology Review
13 Dec 2012:
U.S. Awards $28 Million
To Offshore Wind Farm Projects
The U.S. Department of Energy has announced plans to provide $28 million in grants to seven proposed offshore wind projects, a financial commitment the Obama administration hopes will provide a boost to a green energy sector that has yet to gain a foothold in American waters. Each of the seven projects — located in Maine, New Jersey, Virginia, Texas, Ohio, and Oregon — will receive $4 million
during the engineering, design, and permitting phases. Eventually, if Congress approves, three of the projects could each receive up to $47 million over four years for later phases, including siting, construction, and installation. In contrast to Europe, where offshore wind projects are growing, no offshore wind projects are currently being built in the U.S., although two projects have been approved in Massachusetts
and Rhode Island. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is urging lawmakers to extend the Production Tax Credit
, a 2.2-cent per kilowatt-hour incentive that has helped the land-based wind sector to surge past 50,000 megawatts but is set to expire at the end of the year.
12 Dec 2012:
Large Cellulosic Biorefinery
Will Convert Corn Stalks into Biofuel
Chemical giant DuPont has started construction of a large-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Iowa capable of converting corn stalks and leaves into
Corn stover in bales
a biofuel that could be used in place of fossil fuels at some power plants. The $200 million facility, which will be among the first and largest of its kind in the world
, will produce more than 30 million gallons of ethanol annually
using so-called corn stover, the remains of corn plants after the harvest, DuPont says. The company plans to collect the stover from more than 500 local farmers within a 30-mile radius, and the plant could be operational as soon as mid-2014. DuPont plans to license the production system internationally and work on designs that will expand this aspect of the biofuel industry.
Interview: Designing Green Cities
To Meet 21st Century Challenges
Landscape architect Martha Schwartz is a passionate believer in the role that landscape can play in urban sustainability. Great landscape design, she says, can
Martha Schwartz Partners
moderate extreme heat, recycle water, reduce energy use, lower carbon emissions, and attract people to urban areas. Following these principles, her London-based firm, Martha Schwartz Partners
, has designed such projects as Dublin’s Grand Canal Square; Exchange Square, in Manchester, England; and Abu Dhabi’s Corniche beachfront area. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Schwartz, a professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, talks about the importance of incorporating cultural values in urban design, explains why the design of streets and parking lots is as important as the design of parks, and discusses why the U.S. lags behind many other nations in the greening of its cities. Read the interview
21 Nov 2012:
Solar-Equipped ‘iShacks’ Offer
Cheap, Sustainable Housing in South Africa
South African researchers say they have developed a low-cost and sustainable housing alternative to the flimsy corrugated iron shacks found in the country’s growing settlements. Developed by an interdisciplinary
team at Stellenbosch University’s TsamaHUB center
, the so-called iShack is insulated with inexpensive, natural materials such as mud and cardboard boxes and has a sloped roof for harvesting rainwater. A photovoltaic cell on the roof provides the energy for motion-sensitive exterior lighting, interior lighting, and a cellphone charger. So far, a mother and her three children are living in a prototype iShack
in Ekanini, an informal settlement of 8,000 residents in Cape Town that lacks access to electricity and an adequate water supply. Project developers also taught six residents in the community how to install and maintain the solar power system in hopes they can use the skills for future entrepreneurial ventures. Researchers look to apply the iShack’s design to upgrade settlements in other regions.
15 Nov 2012:
GM to Make 500,000 Vehicles
With Electric Technology Within 5 Years
General Motors aims to build as many as 500,000 vehicles that utilize some sort of electric technology
by 2017. Speaking to reporters this week, GM’s product development chief, Mary Barra, said the company’s fleet of cleaner vehicles will include the plug-in Chevrolet Volt; the all-electric Spark EV, which will go on sale in some markets next year; and cars that utilize the eAssist technologies, which can improve efficiency in some vehicles by as much as 25 percent. A half-million vehicles would represent about 5 percent of the company’s global sales last year; GM expects to sell 50,000 vehicles equipped with electric technologies this year. While the market for electric cars is sluggish, Barra said plug-in vehicles remain central to the company’s strategy
. “We have every intention of maintaining our leadership position in plug-in vehicles,” she said. Like all automakers, GM will need to offer more fuel-efficient vehicles to meet stricter U.S. auto emissions standards that will be in place in 2025.
14 Nov 2012:
Algal Biofuel Blend
Reaches Market at California Gas Stations
A U.S. company this week began pumping a mix of an algae-based biofuel and gasoline at gas stations in California
, a pilot project the company hopes will be a first step in providing a large-scale alternative to fossil fuels.
The fuel, known as Biodiesel B20, contains 80 percent petroleum and 20 percent algae grown by San Francisco-based Solazyme. The fuel is produced in a fermentation process at Solazyme’s Illinois plant that combines sugar with an organism company officials will not identify. According to the company, the new fuel blend produces 30 percent fewer particulates, 20 percent less carbon monoxide, and 10 percent fewer hydrocarbons than other biodiesel fuels. So far, the fuel is being sold for diesel vehicles at four gas stations in the Bay Area for $4.25 per gallon, which is also the average price right now for diesel fuel in California. But Propel Fuels, which is providing the infrastructure for the fuel delivery, hopes to make the fuel available at hundreds of California stations, said Matt Horton, Propel’s CEO.
12 Nov 2012:
U.S. Could Be World’s Largest
Oil Producer Within a Decade, Report Says
Advances in drilling for unconventional fossil fuels could make the U.S. the world’s biggest oil producer within a decade, a shift that could transform the global flow of energy for all regions of the world, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). According to the organization’s World Energy Outlook
, the U.S. could become a net exporter of natural gas by 2020 as a result of advances in drilling, including for shale gas, and “almost self-sufficient” in energy by 2035. In addition, once North America becomes a net oil exporter and no longer reliant on countries such as Saudi Arabia, nearly 90 percent of Middle Eastern oil will be exported to China and other Asian nations. While the report projects that energy demand worldwide will increase by one-third by 2035, it also suggests that the global market can achieve energy savings equivalent to nearly 20 percent of total current demand during that period. “In other words, energy efficiency is just as important as unconstrained energy supply,” said Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the IEA. “And increased action on efficiency can serve as a unifying energy policy that brings multiple benefits.”
08 Nov 2012:
Molecular ‘Trap Door’ Method
May Reduce Costs of Carbon Capture
Australian scientists have developed a method for trapping carbon dioxide
that they say could ultimately reduce the costs of separating and storing carbon from fossil fuel emissions. Writing in the Journal of the American Chemical Society
, researchers from the University of Melbourne say they have produced an ultra-fine sieve that separates only carbon dioxide from a gas stream, acting as a sort of “molecular trapdoor.” According to the study, the new method — which can be used in power plants or during natural gas extraction — uses a chemical called a chabazite that allows carbon dioxide to pass through but blocks other chemicals. While many such existing carbon capture technologies use similar “sieves,” they often require additional stages of refining and extraction before yielding a pure form of CO2. “Because [the new process] allows only carbon dioxide molecules to be captured, it will reduce the cost and energy required for separating carbon dioxide,” said Paul Webley, a professor at the University of Melbourne and one of the study’s authors.
07 Nov 2012:
Green Ballot Initiatives
Rejected by Voters in California, Michigan
Two closely watched state ballot initiatives endorsed by environmental groups went down to defeat on Tuesday, as voters in California rejected a proposal that would have required the labeling of all genetically modified crops and Michigan voters soundly defeated a measure that would have required stricter renewable standards on electric utilities. In California, Prop. 37 was backed by the organic food industry and consumer groups but faced rising opposition in recent weeks in the form of a $44 million advertising campaign funded largely by the biotechnology sector, including agribusiness giant Monsanto. While advocates said they have the right to know what’s in the their food, opponents warned voters that the initiative would cost families hundreds of dollars annually in higher grocery costs. According to the Los Angeles Times
, the measure was losing, 57 percent to 42 percent, with most precincts reporting. In Michigan, a ballot initiative that would have required utilities to generate 25 percent of their power
from green sources by 2025 also triggered a major ad blitz by opponents, including the state’s utilities.
30 Oct 2012:
Vulnerability of Infrastructure
Revealed During Hurricane Sandy
The storm that crippled the New York City region has revealed the extreme vulnerability of its transportation and electricity infrastructure
and highlights the need to better protect subways, tunnels, low-lying roads, and power substations as sea levels rise
Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Flooding in New York City’s Financial District
and storms produce higher seawater surges in the future. New York City and the surrounding area experienced unprecedented damage to its transportation infrastructure
, with the subway system knocked out for an estimated four to five days, several major tunnels flooded, regional rail lines crippled, and highways and roads underwater. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday morning that the city and the state may have to consider building a levee to protect lower Manhattan
, where waters rose 10 feet above flood stage. Other experts suggested that other significant steps will have to be taken to protect New York City, including building sea gates that would keep surging storm waters out of New York Harbor. Climate scientists said that the impact of hurricanes can be expected to become more severe
as temperatures increase and sea levels rise by an estimated three to six feet this century.
26 Oct 2012:
Digital Atlas App Documents
Human Effects on the Natural World
A team of UK-based developers has created an interactive app that enables users to explore a trove of global data on several critical issues, including how human populations are impacting the natural world and
Mapping world trends: Carbon emissions
the production and consumption of energy resources. Released this month, Atlas by Collins
uses a series of 3D globes to illustrate seven topics, including energy, the environment, politics, and population. The digital atlas contains data from every nation and more than 200,000 geographical sites, including cities, landmarks, and natural features. Users can compare trends in population, pollution, and forest loss, and trace the shifting dynamics of the distribution of energy resources. The app allows viewers to swipe across the planet’s surface and click key points to zoom to street-level detail using Apple Maps and Google Maps.
17 Oct 2012:
Chinese Report Acknowledges
Nuclear Safety Concerns at Reactors
In a new report, the Chinese government has laid out a plan to upgrade the security at its nuclear power reactors
over the next decade, suggesting that the country may be ready to resume a planned expansion of
Feng Li/Getty Images
Inspector at a Zhejiang construction site
its nuclear sector halted in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. The Ministry of Environmental Protection report indicates that roughly 80 billion yuan ($12.75 billion) will be required by 2015 to upgrade radioactive-contamination controls at the nation’s plants to international standards. Making the challenge more complicated, the report said, is the variety of reactors in place across China and “multiple standards of safety.” “The current [nuclear] safety situation isn’t optimistic,” the report said. The report recommended the phasing out of older nuclear reactors and an increased emphasis on research and development into nuclear safety and radioactive waste handling. While not specifying any timeline, the report suggested the nation is getting closer to restarting the approval process for new plants, which was suspended in 2011 following the nuclear crisis in Japan.
11 Oct 2012:
Group Calls for Swift Growth
Of Carbon Capture-and-Storage Facilities
An industrial group says that to avoid “dangerous climate change” an additional 55 facilities that capture carbon from power plants and store it underground must be built by 2020
. The group, the Global CCS Institute, said that only one new carbon-capture-and-storage (CCS) plant was built in the past year, bringing the current number to 75. The institute acknowledged that the goal of building 130 CCS plants by 2020 was unlikely, but argued that the technology is a proven method of reducing carbon dioxide emissions
and vital to future strategies to slow global warming. The institute said that just eight of the 75 plants now in operation have achieved a greater reduction in CO2 emissions that all other greenhouse gas reduction efforts instituted in the UK and Australia. CCS Institute President Brad Page said that governments should treat CCS technology as they do other low-carbon initiatives, like solar and wind power, which often receive subsidies and other government aid designed to encourage the growth of renewable energy.
10 Oct 2012:
Software Maps CO2 Emissions
Down to Building and Street Levels
A team of U.S. researchers has developed a software system that they say documents carbon dioxide emissions in urban areas down to the level of individual buildings or street segments
. Using publicly available
Click to enlarge
Bedrich Benes and Michel Abdul-Massih
Annual carbon emissions, Indianapolis
data on local pollution, traffic counts, and building uses — as well as models of building-by-building energy consumption — the researchers from Arizona State and Purdue universities were able to create three-dimensional maps detailing carbon emissions. The researchers hope the software will provide insights into urban CO2 sources and help guide public policy on climate change and sustainable energy use. “Cities have had little information with which to guide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions — and you can’t reduce what you can’t measure,” said Kevin Gurney, an assistant professor at Arizona State University. So far, the so-called Hestia software has been used to produce visualizations for the city of Indianapolis, but the group is also developing maps for Los Angeles and Phoenix.