Tag Archives: Energy

Japan draws up plans for solar power stations in space

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To fans of science fiction, the idea of having solar power stations in space sending down energy to Earth is far from new.

News is, however, the fact that Japan have drawn up plans for exactly such a power station.

The idea, which is still just an idea, goes as follows:

Take an island, fill it witl billions of tiny rectifying antennas able of converting microwave energy into DC electricity. Run a cable from the island, where no-one is going to want to live, because of the radiation, to the mainland. Now take a handfull (or two) of solar collectors, shoot them into space and have them set up in a geosynchronous orbit and beam down microwaves onto the island from 36 000 km above Earth.

Sounds great, and as long as the whole thing worked according to plan. If the solar collectors missed their target, or someone decided to tinker with the whole setup, things could be very, very different.

Imagine a giant microwave oven, and then stuff the population of Tokyo into it…..

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How much energy would it take to completely wipe you out?

Science Fiction is cool! Just think of things like ray guns…or the phasers from Star Trek. I’ve personally spent way too much time wondering about questions like: ‘how would phasers actually work?’, usually followed by questions like ‘how often would you get the setting on it wrong and end up vaporizing someone instead of just stunning them?’.

Good thing we have science – and scientists, because they are the sort of people who will sit down and find answers for questions like this.

Let’s start with the concept of vaporizing. If we take a pedantic view, then this involves splitting every single atom in your body down into its most base components. This is not an easy thing to do. Actually, it takes “460 kilojoules of energy to break just one mole of oxygen-hydrogen bonds—around the same energy that a 2,000-pound car going 70 miles per hour”.

So, getting out the mother of all abacuses, scientists worked out that it would take a whopping three gigajoules of energy to completely vaporize you. To put it into context, that’s the amount of energy you need to melt 5,000 pounds (roughly 2.2 tonnes) of steel.

Who do we have thank for this information? Well, it’s actually the undergraduate students on the Natural Sciences/Interdisciplinary Science degree programmes at the University of Leicester.

Fracking: opportunity or danger? Or cute cartoon?

Hydrofrackturing rock formations to extract gas – or fracking, as it’s commonly known – has generated more than a fair share of debate in recent years.

Supporters call it the key to solving our energy needs while moving towards more green energy, while opponents call it the worst idea since the Romans put lead in their aqueducts.

And water is often at the heart of the debate between the two sides, with opponents saying that fracking causes pollution of drinking water and also causes earthquakes. Supporters, on the other hand, say that this isn’t the case and point to the fact that gas extracted through fracking has lowered the use of coal in some countries, meaning that it’s helping reduce the amounts of CO2 humans pump into the atmosphere.

Right or wrong, this is a complex issue. Good thing we have cartoons.

OK, that’s a dig (bad pun, sorry), but this illustration of the pros and cons actually does a pretty good job of explaining the whole thing:

Obama’s plan on the environment – not great, but has infographic

President Obama has revealed his plan to reduce American CO2 emissions and generally improve the state of the environment.

Left and right have already had a swing at it, and if you’re into the environment as a sorta nice place to hang out, you’ll probably be a bit disappointed at its limited scope and level of ambition.

But hey, it comes with an infographic:

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German brewers united against fracking for gas

Mmmhmhhm, beer, mwarhghgh
Mmmhmhhm, beer, mwarhghgh

Photo by: barockschloss

German brewers are warning the country’s government that the controversial fracking for shale gas could ruin the industry.

Basically, the brewers are concerned that fracking, which involves pumping a mix of water, sand and chemicals into sediments deep underground, might cause impurities in some of the water sources the industry relies on.

Although it’s still very uncertain if fracking could impact the brewers in any way near what they’re fearing and at the same time impossible because of the brewing process, it could be kinda funny seeing an Oktoberfest where people in lederhosen were lighting their beers and burps on fire. Or is that just me?

Lockheed Martin planning world’s biggest OTEC plant for China

The Lockheed Martin Group has announced that it will be constructing the world’s largest Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) power plant off the coast of southern China.

The planned 10MW power plant will be the biggest of its kind to date, and the goal is that it will supply all the power needed to run a nearby green resort that will be constructed by the Reignwood Group.

A OTEC plant uses the temperature difference between hot surface water and cold deep water to generate electricity. This can be done in a couple of ways, with the planned 10MW using a closed system generator.

In a closed system OTEC generator, a fluid with a low boiling point is heated up by the warm surface water, using a heat exchanger. The process turns the fluid into steam is used to run a turbine tied to a generator producing electricity. After the steam leaves the turbine, it is condensed into liquid form again by exposing it to the cold deep water.

“Unlike other renewable energy technologies, this power is also base load, meaning it can be produced consistently 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Lockheed Martin said at the unveiling of the new plans.

First US offshore windfarm 2 billion Japanese dollars closer to reality

The plans for the first full-scale American offshore wind farm have received a massive boost from the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

The Japanese bank have signed a term agreement to become the Coordinating Lead Arranger for the Cape Wind wind farm.

The money is to be spent on development and construction costs for Cape Wind, which will be situated in the Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts.

The wind farm will consist of 130 turbines, each 258 feet tall and the total potential power output has been calculated to be 468MW.

Electricity goes boom!

Photo by: RG John

OK, I’m a geek / nerd. So this video where the US Navy tests one of their little toys, I had to physically restrain myself from clapping and giggling like a manic little kid in the throes of an intense sugar rush:

According to this article from Wired, it’s an electrically powered rail gun, capable of firing massive bullets very, very far at supersonic speeds. OK, now I sound like that kid who just had sugar with tea. But it’s just really cool, right?

For me, watching something like this is a bit like watching boxing: I know it’s wrong and that I ought to object to the needless violence – but at the same time I’m fascinated by the spectacle and the science behind it….

Kenya about to go nuclear?

Kenya is reportedly looking to generate much of their electricity with nuclear energy. According to reports, including an article on Voice of America’s website, the country wants a nuclear program to be up and running in about 15 years.

Today, over 80 per cent of Kenyans do not have access to electricity, instead relying on firewood and kerosene to generate energy Electricity is expensive, and the supply is limited.

“If the cost of electricity can be reduced, then more of our people will be having access to electricity and with that other uses of electricity – like cooking, for example, our children being able to read. It will enhance the standard of living of our people if we have nuclear energy in the energy mix in the near future,” David Otwoma, secretary of the Kenyan Energy Ministry’s Nuclear Electricity Development Project said.

The first step towards a full nuclear program for the Kenyans has been the opening of a Institute of Nuclear Science & Technology.

Visiting said institute’s website presents what might both be a public relations gaffe and/or a PR masterstroke, as one of top pictures is of some people installing solar panels. Reassuring, yes, but surely not something that says ‘nuclear power’?