- Biofuel Production Could Get Huge Boost Thanks To Galactan Breakthrough
- Monitoring Air Quality From Your Smart Phone
- California Sets New Record For Winter Solar Power Generation
- Concentrating Solar Power With Thermal Energy Storage Is Economically Useful For Utility Company Profits, Study Finds
- Biking Benefits Body & Brain
- 2nd Largest US Bike Sharing Program To Launch In LA In April
- Wind Generation Outpacing Natural Gas In US In 2012
- How A Vibrating Membrane Could Lead To A More Sustainable Cocktail
- Living Concrete Created That Improves Buildings’ Thermal Comfort & Absorbs Atmospheric CO2
- Gas & Petroleum Development Banned In Sacred Waters Of British Columbia
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 07:30 AM PST
In contrast to ethanol, new and “advanced” biofuels created from the sugars found in the cell walls of plants could be directly substituted in place of currently used fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels. They can take the place of these fuels “on a gallon-for-gallon basis,” and wouldn’t require any modifications to be made to the engines and infrastructures that are currently in use.
The quality that makes them truly promising as a supplement to renewable energies, though, is their potential to be carbon neutral, potentially being burned without contributing any new carbon to the atmosphere.
“We have confirmed the identity of the GT92 enzyme as the first enzyme shown to increase the biosynthesis of galactan,” says Henrik Scheller, vice president for JBEI’s Feedstocks Division and director of its Cell Wall Biosynthesis group. “This identification of the first β-1,4-galactan synthase provides an important new tool for the engineering of advanced bioenergy fuel crops.”
While I’m not a proponent of biofuel use on a large-scale, carbon-neutral forms could very useful as a small-scale supplement to renewable energy such as solar and wind power.
The new research was just described in a paper published in the journal Plant Cell.
Biofuel Production Could Get Huge Boost Thanks To Galactan Breakthrough was originally published on: CleanTechnica
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 07:00 AM PST
The researchers have built a small fleet of portable pollution sensors that they sent out into the area during a field test — the sensors allow users to monitor air quality in real-time and view the results on their smart phone.
"We want to get more data and better data, which we can provide to the public," said William Griswold, a computer science professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego and the lead investigator on the project. "We are making the invisible visible."
The information is linked to a users’ smartphones, as well as those without sensors, by way of the application.
Furthermore, deploying 100 sensors into a region could generate a really useful dataset beyond that which is currently provided by EPA-mandated air-quality monitoring stations. For example, San Diego County has a population of 3.1 residents over approximately 4,000 square miles and only 10 air-monitoring stations.
The CitiSense sensors detect levels of ozone, nitrogen, and carbon monoxide, the three most common pollutants expelled by cars and trucks that are damaging to the human respiratory system. The smartphone application subsequently reveals the data by way of a colour-coded scale for air quality based on the EPA’s air quality ratings ranging from green for good through to purple for hazardous.
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 05:02 AM PST
“On Wednesday, December 19, the CaISO’s preliminary figures for renewable energy output, which are displayed in the chart at the top of this post, indicated that for Wednesday’s solar output reached a peak somewhere between 950 and 1,000 megawatts at around 10:30 a.m., and held there until just after 1:00 p.m.”
While that isn’t really a ton of energy, it’s an important milestone because of the time of year. The sun is lower in the sky than at any other time of year, which means that there is much less solar energy available for solar panels to utilize.
Of course, the underlying point is that California’s solar energy generating capacity has grown significantly since the August record was set. And compared to last year, the growth is very impressive — in December 2011, there was a maximum output of just 200 MW of solar power production.
That growth is expected to continue or even increase in 2013, which is good because a rapid phaseout of fossil fuels is neccissary to avoid the worst effects of future climate change according to the vast majority of climate scientists.
California Sets New Record For Winter Solar Power Generation was originally published on: CleanTechnica
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 04:50 AM PST
A CSP that possesses a 6-hour storage capacity works well to lower peak net loads for the part of the day when the sun isn't shining. That’s “enough to add $35.80 per megawatt hour to the capacity and operational value of the utility, compared to photovoltaic (PV) solar power alone, and even higher extra value when compared to CSP without storage. The net load is the normal load minus variable renewables such as photovoltaic and wind.”
The thermal storage creates additional value because it allows CSP to replace the gas-fired generation that is used during peak loads and is more expensive, and also because it works to even out the solar power generation throughout the day, rather than a big bump during the day and big drop-off at night.
How The Value Was Determined
This study is one of the first where “the operational and capacity value of CSP with thermal storage has been evaluated using a production cost model, a traditional utility planning tool,” NREL writes.
The researchers used Energy Exemplar's PLEXOS simulation model to specifically isolate the value of thermal energy storage (TES) with and without storage relative to other generation methods.
"We've known for a long time that CSP with storage adds significant value, however, we are now able to quantify this value in the language utilities understand," said Mark Mehos, manager of NREL's Concentrating Solar Power program.
“With CSP with thermal storage, you aren't diving as deep into the generation stack, displacing cheaper and cheaper fuel," Denholm said. "You're always displacing the highest-cost fuel."
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 04:29 AM PST
Danish researchers were looking at the benefits of breakfast and lunch on school children and found that how the children got to school was actually of great importance. They found that the kids who walked or rode their bikes did better on tests than those who got to school by car or public transport.
John Ratey, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, told The Independent that he’s seen patients with severe depression greatly improve after cycling. Ratey says that a current study his department is working on includes 20 children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder who are all expected to show improved symptoms after cycling. He says cycling, like Ritalin, increases levels of neurotransmitters.
It’s not just kids who see benefits in concentration and coordination from cycling. Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute neuroscientist Dr. Jay Alberts conducted a cycling-based experiment with 26 Parkinson’s disease patients. Alberts scanned the patients’ brains during and then a month after the eight-week stationary bike experiment. All the patients showed improvement, but the experiment showed that the 13 participants who were pushed to cycle harder had significantly more areas of grey matter connectivity.
Even more astonishing is the New England Journal of Medicine Youtube video of a 58-year-old patient with a 10-year history of Parkinson’s barely able to shuffle down a hospital corridor who then gets on a bike and pedals through the parking lot with incredible balance and ease. Check it out:
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 04:21 AM PST
According to a recent LA Times article, Bike Nation is pledging $16 million to LA’s first (and the country’s second largest, behind NYC’s system) bike sharing program, which will launch in April 2013.
Miami Heat stars LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Mario Chalmers don’t have the market cornered on NBA endorsements of cycling initiatives. Los Angeles Clippers small forward Caron Butler was at last Thursday’s press conference announcing LA’s bike sharing launch.
The plan is to have 4,000 rental bikes stationed around downtown LA at rates of $1.50 an hour, $4.50 per 90 minutes, $6 a day, or $75 for a one-year pass. Rides under 30 minutes will be free.
Bike Nation has already partnered with Long Beach and Anaheim for other cycle-share programs.
Looks like in LA it’s goodbye board shorts, hello spandex.
Image: Row of bicycles via Shutterstock
2nd Largest US Bike Sharing Program To Launch In LA In April was originally published on: CleanTechnica
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 04:01 AM PST
As of November 30th, preliminary numbers have 6,579 megawatts (MW) of new wind capacity created in the US, just nudging ahead of natural gas, which is at 6,335. It’s also about twice the amount of new coal power being produced, according to a recent Bloomberg article.
"Wind will very likely beat gas, but it may be close," said Amy Grace, who heads wind energy analysis for New York–based Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
"It's very likely that we get over 8 gigawatts for 2012," she said. Finalized data will come from Ventyx Inc. in January, 2013.
But with the end-of-year surge, it’s quite possible that we will get a lot more wind power by the end of the year.
New wind energy capacity could possibly reach as high as 12 gigawatts (GW), beating new gas turbines and possibly adding more new wind capacity in November and December as in all the rest of the year.
The impact of wind energy in the energy mix is starting to make a real impact, a big difference from just a few years ago, as noted by an industry expert:
However, the ongoing threat of the wind power production tax credit expiring looms large. If the credit were to expire, data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance points to US wind energy installations plummeting as much as 88% next year (to about 1.5 GW).
Recently, to address these concerns, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has put forward a plan to phase the credit by 2019, to prevent the potential loss of 37,000 wind energy jobs.
Critics, including senior vice president of Exelon Corp. Joseph Dominguez, who heads one of the largest US nuclear power plants, suggests the wind industry is strong enough to live without the tax credit, because of the strong installations recently:
The increase in wind installations, with the pending end of the tax credit, has benefited General Electric (GE), said Jeffrey Immelt, GE’s CEO, in a recent teleconference call on December 17th.
"We'll probably make more money this year than the rest of the industry combined in renewables," Immelt said.
"We can't control how the PTC works or doesn't work, but we have a very strong competitive wind business that basically has done the job," he said.
Can wind energy installations keep up this frantic pace? The next few months will be very interesting. We’ll see where the road takes the wind industry.
Wind Generation Outpacing Natural Gas In US In 2012 was originally published on: CleanTechnica
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 03:44 AM PST
Olive Wastewater, What a Headache
According to a quite informative article at oliveoilsource.com, one key issue with olive wastewater is that it is loaded with polyphenols, a class of antioxidants.
When we eat foods containing antioxidants, that’s a good thing, but what makes antioxidants good for humans is their anti-bacterial nature. When released into the environment, the polyphenol-saturated wastewater from olive mills can wreak havoc with the existing balance and contaminate wetlands and other waterways, including groundwater.
The conventional “safe” disposal method, according to New Logic, is to let the excess liquid in the wastewater evaporate in open ponds. Centrifuges are another means of removing most of the liquid. The remaining sludge can then be sent to a landfill or, in some cases, used as a soil enhancer.
There are a couple of big problems with this. The open-pond method takes up a large amount of space that could be put to more productive use. Leakage is a risk, and odors create problems with neighbors, especially as population grows in previously rural areas.
Centrifuges can save space, but combined with dryers and trucks for sludge transportation, both the expense and the greenhouse gas emissions start to pile up.
A Vibrating Membrane that Harvests Value from Wastewater
If you’re a regular reader of CleanTechnica, you can see where this is going. Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of virtual ink enthusing over the valuable goodies that can be harvested from the waste of people (you can even run a car on it), livestock, and cheese making, among other food and beverage operations, and now we can add olive wastewater to the list.
The challenge is to come up with a cost-effective means of separating out valuable products from wastewater. In olive processing, the problem with conventional filters is membrane fouling due to a high concentration of colloids (gooey gelatinous stuff).
Under those circumstances, pretreatment and other means of keeping the filtration membrane clean enough to operate efficiently can be more trouble than it’s worth, especially for small olive processing facilities.
New Logic’s Solution is called the Vibratory Shear Enhanced Process (VSEP). It’s a little more complex than the name implies, but basically it involves using torsional vibration to keep up a crossflow of liquid across the membrane, in order to keep colloids from accumulating on the surface.
With saving space in mind, the system actually consists of hundreds of stacked membranes. That enables it to pack about 1,400 square feet of membrane space into one module with a footprint of only four square feet.
According to New Logic, in addition to collecting dissolved and suspended solids the system yields “drinkable water” without the need for pretreatment, and it also recovers usable oils.
A More Sustainable Olive Industry
The University of California–Davis Olive Center has just received a Department of Agriculture grant that puts New Logic’s olive wastewater treatment technology in a framework of overall improvement for the California olive industry, in terms of both economic and environmental sustainability.
The UC Davis Olive Center is a public-private partnership that “seeks to do for olives what UC Davis did for wine.”
It launched in 2008 and has already established an impressive track record in all facets of the industry, from analyzing consumer tastes to coordinating with federal regulators and developing high-efficiency harvesting machines.
The Olive Center’s interest in New Logic is just one part of the overall goal of the new Department of Agriculture grant. The central goal of the project is to help the olive industry improve its bottom line by cutting wastewater volume by about 90 percent, while reaping more additional value from the crop especially in the form of nutritional supplements and pharmaceuticals.
For its part in the project, New Logic is donating a VSEP system along with technical support and training.
In other olive industry cleantech news, last year the California company Musco Family Olive Co. installed a carbon-neutral system using olive pits as renewable energy for wastewater treatment; and a solar powered, algae-based system for reclaiming olive washing water is under development in Europe,
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey
How A Vibrating Membrane Could Lead To A More Sustainable Cocktail was originally published on: CleanTechnica
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 03:33 AM PST
The prime innovation of this new concrete is that it works very well as a support for the naturally occurring “growth and development of certain biological organisms, to be specific, certain families of microalgae, fungi, lichens and mosses,” the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya notes in a press release about the concrete.
Currently the researchers are working to accelerate the natural colonization that occurs on the concrete by these organisms. Their goal is to have it set up so that the surface is very well covered in less than a year.
The key qualities of the material are its specific pH, porosity, surface roughness, and it’s sandwich-like structure. The structure is composed of three layers: the first is a waterproofing layer, the second is the biological layer that allows water to accumulate in it, and the third is a ‘discontinuous coating layer’ with a reverse waterproofing function.
The new concrete material works well as an absorber of atmospheric CO2, and also at capturing solar heat and providing insulation.
The researchers think that the material could function very well fulfilling some of the same functions that vertical gardens and turf walls do.
Source: Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC)
Living Concrete Created That Improves Buildings’ Thermal Comfort & Absorbs Atmospheric CO2 was originally published on: CleanTechnica
Posted: 24 Dec 2012 03:26 AM PST
The region is wild land containing the Stikine, Nass, and Skeena rivers, which are used by salmon for their spawning and migrations. Because of its beauty and the presence of indigenous people, the Klappan is also called the Sacred Waters. It is also the area where the rivers listed above join.
The Tahltan Nation website published remarks about the historical decision. “The Klappan is one of the most sacred and important areas for our people. It is a place of tremendous cultural, spiritual, historic and social importance – our people do not want to see it developed, and we look forward to working with British Columbia on achieving that goal,” said Annita McPhee, President of the Tahltan Central Council. (Tahltan Nation)
The Tahltan culture says the Sacred Waters are where their community began thousands of years ago. For the last seven years, some of their elders have been observing the activities of Shell Canada as their workers tried to implement a coalbed methane mining project. Nonviolent blockades and protests slowed the Shell initiative, but for some period it continued — until a final resolution by the BC government to ban such projects permanently.
The main Tahltan village is at Telegraph Creek and this center is also considered their tribal headquarters. In previous decades, when trading was an important part of their economy, most Tahltans visted Telegraph Creek at least once a year.
Prior to the arrival of fur traders, the Tahltan had lived in the area unimpeded for millennia. Over seventy percent of the original population was wiped out by an epidemic of smallpox introduced by Europeans and the ensuing starvation.
Image Credit: Stikine.net
Gas & Petroleum Development Banned In Sacred Waters Of British Columbia was originally published on: CleanTechnica
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