Abu Dhabi project uses sand to store solar power
August 5, 2016 11:00 AM - Ali Audi, SciDevNet

Researchers in Abu Dhabi are testing a pilot device that can store solar energy in sand to improve the efficiency of power plants and provide energy at night.

The technology, developed at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, uses gravity to drain sand from a higher basin into a lower one, heating up the sand grains with solar power during the transition. In the lower basin, the energy can be stored and withdrawn at low cost to provide extra energy if needed, for example during peak hours and at night-time.

"Two pilot models of the system have been tested in an effort to prove its efficiency and applicability on a large scale in big projects,” says Nicolas Calvet, an assistant professor at the Masdar institute’s department of mechanical engineering.  


EPA On Board to Develop Emission Rules for Aircraft
August 5, 2016 10:11 AM - RP Siegel, Triple Pundit

The end of last month brought big news in the battle to rein in climate change. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from airplanes pose a threat to human health and the environment and therefore are subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.

The Act was originally passed in 1970 to combat air pollution in the form of airborne lead and mercury, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulates, and ground-level ozone — to name a few. It was updated in 1990 to include emissions that threaten the ozone layer, and again in 2009 to deal with emissions known to contribute to climate change.

This announcement now clears the way for the EPA to develop rules to regulate aircraft emissions, much as the agency has done for emissions from cars and trucks. Aircraft are responsible for roughly 12 percent of all U.S. transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, or a little over 3 percent of all U.S. GHG emissions.

A research project coordinated by UC3M helps reduce the cost of parallel computing
July 29, 2016 04:41 PM - CARLOS III UNIVERSITY OF MADRID via EurekAlert!

Heterogeneous parallel computing combines various processing elements with different characteristics that share a single memory system. Normally multiple cores (like the 'multicores' in some smart phones or personal computers) are combined with graphic cards and other components to process large quantities of data.

"We hope to help transform code so that it can be run in heterogeneous parallel platforms with multiple graphic cards and reconfigurable hardware," explains the project's coordinator, José Daniel García, an associate professor in UC3M's Computer Science department. "We've made significant improvements in both performance and energy efficiency, comparable to those that can be made with a manual development process; the difference is that with a manual development process, we need months of engineering, while with our semiautomatic process we can do the same tasks in a few days."

ORNL-led study analyzes electric grid vulnerabilities in extreme weather areas
July 29, 2016 04:25 PM - DOE/OAK Ridge National Laboratory via EurekAlert!

Climate and energy scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a new method to pinpoint which electrical service areas will be most vulnerable as populations grow and temperatures rise.

"For the first time, we were able to apply data at a high enough resolution to be relevant," said ORNL's Melissa Allen, co-author of "Impacts of Climate Change on Sub-regional Electricity Demand and Distribution in the Southern United States," published in Nature Energy.

The US Is Finally Getting Its First Offshore Wind Farm
July 28, 2016 04:30 PM - Brendan Cole via

BUILDING IN RHODE Island isn’t easy. Hurricanes and tropical storms barrel through its quaint coastline towns, interrupting perfect summer weekends. Freezing winters bring blizzards that can shut down the entire state. And every season features corrosive salty winds, biting at the coast as if sent by a Britain still seething at the first American colony to declare independence.

But one company sees the state’s incessant wind as a utility. Deepwater Wind has partnered with General Electric Renewable Energy to build the first offshore wind farm in the United States, off the coast of Block Island. Hooked up to the grid by the end of 2016, the system could supply 90 percent of the tourist destination’s power within the next few years. But it hasn’t been easy. Designing and building spinning fans hundreds of feet tall that stay sutured to the ocean floor in the face of currents and wicked winds has taken almost three years of work.

Breakthrough solar cell captures CO2 and sunlight, produces burnable fuel
July 28, 2016 03:01 PM - University of Illinois at Chicago via EurekAlert!

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have engineered a potentially game-changing solar cell that cheaply and efficiently converts atmospheric carbon dioxide directly into usable hydrocarbon fuel, using only sunlight for energy.

The finding is reported in the July 29 issue ofScience and was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy. A provisional patent application has been filed.

Unlike conventional solar cells, which convert sunlight into electricity that must be stored in heavy batteries, the new device essentially does the work of plants, converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into fuel, solving two crucial problems at once. A solar farm of such "artificial leaves" could remove significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and produce energy-dense fuel efficiently.

Videos reveal birds, bats and bugs near Ivanpah solar project power towers
July 27, 2016 04:15 PM - Us Geological Survey via EurekAlert!

Video surveillance is the most effective method for detecting animals flying around solar power towers, according to a study of various techniques by the U.S. Geological Survey and its partners at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System facility in southeastern California.

This study is the first to examine a variety of remote sensing and sampling techniques to determine which technology might be most effective for monitoring how solar power facilities impact flying animals. The information will be used to further study the effects of solar power infrastructure on flying animals -- a subject about which little is known -- and to develop ways to lessen harmful effects.

At Ivanpah, evidence of flying animals impacted by intense heat near the solar towers had been observed. The new study showed that although birds and bats were occasionally seen near the towers at Ivanpah, most observations involved insects.

Montreal households the greenest in Canada: UBC study
July 27, 2016 11:51 AM - University of British Columbia via EurekAlert!

Montreal homes are the most sustainable in the country, and Edmonton's the least, according to a new University of British Columbia study that compares average household greenhouse gas emissions in major cities across Canada.

Using census data over a 12-year span, researchers ranked cities on how much carbon dioxide the average Canadian family (two to three people) with an annual income of $81,000 in each city produced in a year from the combined use of electricity, gasoline and natural gas.

The average Montreal household produces five tonnes of GHG per family per year, while the average Edmonton household emits 20 tonnes per family per year.

Current atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations likely commit to warmings greater than 1.5C over land
July 27, 2016 10:20 AM - Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Current levels of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations already commit the planet to air temperatures over many land regions being eventually warmed by greater than 1.5°C, according to new research published today (27 July 2016) in the journal Scientific Reports.

The results of the new study have implications for international discussions of what constitutes safe global temperature thresholds, such as 1.5°C or 2°C of warming since pre-industrial times. The expected extra warming over land will influence how we need to design some cities. It could also impact on the responses of trees and plants, and including crops.

The research was carried out by scientists from the UK's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and the University of Exeter, UK.

The research team found two main reasons behind the result.

Silicon-air battery achieves running time of over 1,000 hours for the first time
July 26, 2016 03:48 PM - Forschungszentrum Juelich via ScienceDaily

Silicon-air batteries are viewed as a promising and cost-effective alternative to current energy storage technology. However, they have thus far only achieved relatively short running times. Jülich researchers have now discovered why.

In theory, silicon-air batteries have a much higher energy density and are also smaller and lighter than current lithium-ion batteries. They are also environmentally friendly and insensitive to external influences. Their most important advantage, however, is their material. Silicon is the second most abundant element in the Earth's crust after oxygen: it is cheap and its reserves are practically inexhaustible.

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