Friday, 7 May 2010

Ultra-Efficient Bladeless Wind Turbine Inspired by Nikolai Tesla

by Philip Proefrock, 05/06/10
SolarAero recently unveiled a new bladeless wind turbine that offers several advantages over current wind turbines — it emits hardly any noise in operation, has few moving parts, and since it doesn’t use spinning blades it’s much less of a hazard to bats and birds. The whole assembly is inside an enclosed housing, with screened inlets and outlets to keep animals safely out. It also can be installed on sensitive locations such as radar installations or sites under surveillance where the rotating blades cause detrimental effects. Read on to learn what makes it work.

Whether they are vertical axis or horizontal axis, typical wind turbines work by catching moving air with blades, and using that force to rotate the axle, which turns a generator to produce electricity. Instead of pushing on blades, SolarAero’s turbine is based on the Tesla turbine originally developed by Nikolai Tesla. The principle of the Tesla turbine is to set up an array of closely-spaced, very thin, and extremely smooth metal disks. The viscous flow of air moving in parallel to the disks is what propels the turbine, instead of buffeting blades with moving air. This makes for a more compact mechanism with only one moving part: the turbine-driveshaft assembly.
According to the company, this turbine should cost around $1.50 per watt of rated output, and have a lifetime operating cost of about 12 cents per kilowatt-hour — comparable to, or even better than, current retail electrical rates in many parts of the country. This would make the SolarAero turbine about 2/3 the price of a comparable bladed unit, and because of the significantly lower operating costs, lifetime maintenance could be just 1/4 the cost. At this point the project is still under development, and no manufacturer has been lined up as of yet.
+ SolarAeroRead more: Ultra Efficient Bladeless Wind Turbine Inspired by Nikolai Tesla Inhabitat - Green Design Will Save the World

Enerkem Awarded $3.35 Million For Biofuel Facility

Transforming residential waste into biofuel is a step closer to becoming a reality as Enerkem received $3.35 million today from the Biorefining Commercialization and Market Development Program sponsored by Alberta Energy to develop a plant in Edmontion.Today’s award brings Enerkem’s total funding for the plant to $23.5 million as the company has already received $20 million from the City of Edmonton and Alberta.Groundbreaking on the Enerkam GreenField Alberta Biofuels (EGAB) will take place this summer. When completed, the plant will use residential waste that was headed for landfills to produce a green transportation fuel. The plant will also produce enough ethanol to fuel 400,000 cars per year running on a 5 percent ethanol blend.
“Our Edmonton waste-to-biofuels facility will influence cities in North America, and around the world, in how they manage their waste and it promises to revolutionize the fuels market,” said Vincent Chornet, president and chief executive officer at Enerkem.
In December 2009 Enerkem received $50 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Enerty to construct and operate a waste-to-biofuels facility to be located in Pontotoc, Mississippi. That plant is expected to produce 20 million gallons of biofuel per year.
Based in Montreal, Canada, Enerkem is a private company that has received funding from U.S venture capital firms Rho Ventures and Braemar Energy Ventures

Underwater Ocean Kites To Harvest Tidal Energy

Thursday May 06, @02:40PM
eldavojohn writes "A Swedish startup has acquired funding for beginning scale model trials of underwater kites, which would be secured to a turbine to harness tidal energy for power. The company reports that the kite device allows the attached turbine to harvest energy at 10 times the speed of the actual tidal current. With a 12-meter wingspan on the kite, the company says they could harvest 500 kilowatts while it's operational. This novel new design is one of many in which a startup or university hope to turn the ocean into a renewable energy source."

Gulf of Mexico oil spill: fears over impact of 'untested' dispersant

A US environmental group has raised concerns over the use of a dispersant being used to tackle the oil leak threatening disaster along the Gulf Coast, saying its impact on marine life was unclear.

Published: 7:00AM BST 07 May 2010

Larry Schweiger, National Wildlife Federation head, said the method of using underwater dispersant at the source of the leak was untested and could have devastating effects.
"The problem with putting the underwater dispersant where they're putting them is that they've never done that before," said Mr Schweiger.

He said concerns included how the chemical would migrate after being deployed and whether it would severely harm marine life since it was already deep underwater, unlike when it is deployed on the surface.
"The increasing use of dispersant has left a number of questions about where this material is moving to," said Mr Schweiger.
The US Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged in a statement that the ramifications of the underwater dispersant were unclear and said it had only authorized two tests of the method for that reason.
"The tests were done to determine if the dispersant would be effective in breaking up the oil and helping to control the leaks," the EPA said.
"No further use of dispersants underwater is planned until BP provides the results of these tests for our review."
The agency said "the effects of underwater dispersant use on the environment are still widely unknown, which is why we are testing to determine its effectiveness first and foremost."
It noted that BP remains authorised to use the dispersant on the water's surface.
An organisation representing Gulf Coast shrimp fishermen has also raised concerns about the use of dispersants.
An official from US oceans and weather agency NOAA, Doug Helton, said dispersant was one tool to fight the oil leak and "any response technique is a tradeoff."
He stressed the importance of fighting the slick offshore, before it enters fragile wetlands on the Gulf Coast.
The leak from a British Petroleum well in the Gulf is spewing out oil at a rate of some 5,000 barrels, or 210,000 gallons, a day.

Gulf of Mexico oil slick: Sarah Palin fuels anti-British sentiment

Sarah Palin has fuelled growing anti-British sentiment over the Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster by saying "foreign" oil companies like BP were not to be trusted.

Nick Allen in Louisiana Published: 5:37PM BST 06 May 2010

Visitors fear that oil may wash up on their holiday beaches Photo: AP
The former Alaska governor and potential 2012 presidential candidate attacked the British oil giant over the recent Deepwater Horizon spill and a previous one in her state in 2006.
Her comments came despite the fact her husband Todd Palin worked for BP for 18 years, as a production supervisor, and only left the company last year to spend more time with his family.

Mrs Palin urged those in the Gulf of Mexico to "learn from Alaska's lesson with foreign oil companies." She added: "Don't naively trust – verify." As an oil slick the size of Luxembourg loomed off the US coast her intervention added to growing anger at BP among environmentalists and those who face losing their livelihoods.
Kristina Johnson, of the Sierra Club, America's largest grassroots environmental group, said: "They're the ones who have profited from oil and from our oceans. They're the ones who put the Gulf Coast at risk so that they could rake in record profits."
Captain Damon McKnight, a fishing boat captain in Venice, Louisiana, said: "If I was to go and cause a problem I would be expected to clean it up. My biggest beef is BP is really falling behind in the clean up process.
"There's all this oil out there and virtually nobody cleaning it. It's not getting done."
A 100-ton "containment dome" has arrived at the spot where the Deepwater Horizon rig sank 50 miles (80km) off the Louisiana coast on April 22.
BP hopes that by lowering the 40ft high concrete and steel contraption over the leaks, nearly a mile down, it will be able to capture 200,000 gallons of oil a day which is spewing out. The tactic has never been tried before at such a depth.
Mrs Palin, who promoted the slogan "Drill, baby, drill," said she continues to support offshore drilling but the US should not rely on foreign countries for oil.
In 2006, shortly before she became governor, a BP pipeline in Alaska spilt 200,000 gallons of oil at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.
Investigators blamed the spill on corrosion and BP was eventually ordered to pay $20 million (£12 million) in fines and restitution.
Months before the Deepwater Horizon spill two congressmen raised concerns about BP's operations in Alaska. They said there had been four "significant" incidents in two years and warned proposed budget cuts might compromise safety.

Global IT brands urged to be more accountable for pollution in China supply chain

Investigation by coalition of Chinese environmental groups accuses global IT brands of supply chain links to heavy metal poisoning cases in China

Jonathan Watts, Asia environment correspondent, Thursday 6 May 2010 16.03 BST
Vodafone, BT and 27 other leading technology companies must do more to come clean about the potentially dirty and dangerous side of their manufacturing operations in China, according to a new investigation into heavy metal poisoning in the supply chains of global IT brands.
The investigation – carried out by a coalition of 34 Chinese environmental groups – traced a link between lead and cadmium contamination cases and the production of materials for mobile phone batteries and computer circuit boards for foreign companies.
Their findings suggest corporate promises at home of clean production, transparency and accountability can be lost overseas in the complex myriad of supply chains.
More than 4,000 people – mostly children – have been found to have unsafe levels of lead in their blood over the past year in a widening heavy metal poisoning case across several Chinese provinces.
Several of the cases have been widely reported but, until now, the focus of coverage has been on the Chinese factories involved and the weak oversight of environmental authorities. The new report adds a global context by highlighting the responsibility of the big IT firms higher up the supply chain to provide more information to the public and to ensure that low-cost production is not carried out at the expense of local people's health.
Following the supply trail, the investigators found that Shanghang Huaqiang Battery – which was implicated in the lead poisoning of 121 children in Fujian province last year – was a key equipment manufacturer for Narada Power Source. A screen grab of the latter's website claims it is a supplier for Vodafone, BT, and other leading global mobile telecoms brands. They also discovered several other violations, including the discharge of pollution into a Dongguan sewer by a Hong Kong-listed supplier of two multinational computer manufacturers.
The coalition of Chinese NGOs, which include Friends of Nature, the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs and Green Earth Volunteers, have contacted the named firms to ask for clarification, but the response has been mixed.
They say they have received prompt replies from some. But other firms, such as Vodafone and BT have not returned their calls and messages.
The NGOs have called on the foreign firms to be more accountable to the public.
"If a brand calls itself environmentally friendly and in favour of sustainable development, they should be concerned if their supply chains violate environment regulations," said Zhang Boju of Friends of Nature. "The least they should do is to reply to our request for information."
BT said it would reply after an internal investigation into the allegations. "To the best of our knowledge and belief, BT isn't procuring Shanghang Huaqiang Battery Company products via third-party suppliers. However, as part of our ethical and sustainable procurement policy, we are now reviewing this with supply chain partners to ensure that this is the case on a 100% basis," a spokesman wrote in an email reply to the Guardian.
Vodafone said it was unaware of the approach by the NGOs, but that it had a stringent code for ethical purchasing.
In an email response by the press office, the UK company said it had not been aware of the environment problems until last September, when its supplier - Narada - stopped all business with Shanghang after the lead poisoning came to light. Vodafone continues to source batteries from Narada, which it says "has extensive environmental, health and safety, and labour standard management systems in place."
But in a reflection of the problems that have emerged, the UK firm said it had updated its ethical purchasing code this year and was in the process of publishing a set of environmental principles for suppliers of mobile devices.
"These include a clause to reduce overall environmental impacts and hazardous materials in batteries," the company said.
The authors of the report expressed disappointment at the lack of a direct reply from the two UK companies and warned of complacency, particularly on the part of Vodafone.
"Their statement suggests everything is now in place. How can they say that after such a serious case in their supply chain?" said Ma Jun, the founder of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs and a key figure in the NGO's study. "They demonstrated not a slim sense of sympathy or regret that the product it sourced was made by a factory that contributed to such a serious damage to the health of local communities."
It was not good enough, he said, for the firm to simply switch away from a supplier after it was found to have caused an environmental problem.
"I hope British companies like Vodafone and BT, known for their environmental commitment, could take the lead in greening the globalised manufacturing and sourcing. Not only is it essential in fulfilling their own environmental commitment, but it will be the single biggest help they could make in pollution control efforts in China and other developing countries."

South African tourism minister favourite to replace Yvo de Boer

Marthinus van Schalkwyk tipped as likely successor as UN looks to developing country with rising influence in UN climate talks
Reuters, Thursday 6 May 2010 16.00 BST

South Africa's minister of tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk is front-runner to replace Yvo de Boer as UN climate chief, sources familiar with the selection process told Reuters on Thursday.
The run-off is between developing country candidates, reflecting their rising status in stalled UN climate talks to agree a successor to the existing Kyoto protocol. De Boer, of the Netherlands, steps down on July 1 after almost four years.
An interview panel had selected a final shortlist of van Schalkwyk and Costa Rica's Christiana Figueres, one source said, adding van Schalkwyk had the support of key countries. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would make the final decision.
A western diplomat based in New York agreed those two were the favoured candidates.
"The front runner is Marthinus," said a third source, also on condition of anonymity.
"The positive arguments are that he is a minister and so can talk to ministers, and has been a governor of a state so knows how to manage. You need a politician to deal with politicians."
Van Schalkwyk was premier of Western Cape Province from 2002 to 2004. Figueres has been a member of the Costa Rican climate negotiating team since 1995. Her father, Jose Figueres Ferrer, was president of Costa Rica three times.
Norwegian environment minister Erik Solheim praised van Schalkwyk. "He is a very strong candidate, as he was the South African minister of the environment (before taking his present post), but there are other strong candidates," he told Reuters.
"It's very likely that Secretary-General Ban will appoint someone from a developing nation. That would mean a move from Europe to the developing nations and I think that's very sound."
South Africa has proposed some of the most ambitious curbs on carbon emissions among developing countries. However, it recently courted criticism from environmentalists by pushing ahead with plans for one of the world's largest coal power plants.
De Boer announced in February he would step down, saying a new era of diplomacy was starting after the Copenhagen climate summit last December fell short of agreeing a new treaty to replace the Kyoto protocol which comes to an end after 2012.

Leading scientists condemn 'political assaults' on climate researchers

Open letter defends the integrity of climate science and hits out at recent attacks driven by 'special interests or dogma' •
Celia Cole, Thursday 6 May 2010 19.00 BST
A group of 255 of the world's top scientists today written an open letter aimed at restoring public faith in the integrity of climate science.
In a strongly worded reproof of the recent escalation of political assaults on climatologists, the letter, published in the US Journal Science and signed by 11 Nobel laureates, attacks critics driven by "special interests or dogma" and "McCarthy-like" threats against researchers. It also attempts to set the record straight on the process of rigorous scientific research.
The letter is a response to negative publicity following the release of thousands of hacked emails from climate scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and two mistakes makes by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN climate body.
The letter sets out some basic features of the scientific method. "Like all human beings, scientists make mistakes, but the scientific process is designed to find and correct them. But when some conclusions have been thoroughly and deeply tested, questioned, and examined, they gain the status of 'well-established theories' and are often spoken of as 'facts'," it says.
The document, citing theories including the age and origin of the Earth, the Big Bang and Darwin's evolution by natural selection, says that anthropogenic climate change is now so well-supported by evidence that it has achieved the same status. It adds that owing to science's adversarial nature, "fame" awaits any scientists who can prove the theory wrong.
"There is nothing remotely identified in the recent events that changes the fundamental conclusions about climate change," the letter says.
The authors – who are all members of the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the country's premier scientific institution – include some of the academic community's most distinguished climate researchers. But the list also includes top anthropologists, biochemistists and physicists who have felt the need to defend climate science in the wake of what they regard as politically motivated attacks. Three senior scientists from the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Manchester have also added their endorsement. All of the scientists signed up in a personal capacity, not on behalf of the National Academy or on behalf of their institution.
"Many recent assaults on climate science and, more disturbingly, on climate scientists by climate change deniers, are typically driven by special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfies the evidence," the letter says.
Its call for an end to "McCarthy-like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association" appears to be jibe at Republican senator, James Inhofe, who has called for a criminal investigation into US and British climatologists whose email exchanges were stolen from UEA. The letter also condemns the "harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them."
The letter's co-ordinator, Peter Gleick, of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security in Oakland, California, said: "[It] originated with a number of NAS members who were frustrated at the misinformation being spread by climate deniers and the assaults on scientists by some policy-makers who hope to delay or avoid making policy decisions and are hiding behind the recent controversy around emails and minor errors in the IPCC."

First zero-carbon super-yacht to ease conscience of world's billionaires

British designer says £40m solar-powered vessel will appeal to clients searching for eco-luxury•

Robert Booth, Thursday 6 May 2010 15.16 BST

It is the super-yacht for the carbon-conscious billionaire. Instead of polluting the Caribbean and Mediterranean with clouds of diesel smoke, oligarchs and sheikhs are being offered the chance to sail zero-carbon, with everything from their on-board plasma televisions and champagne fridges to the main propellor being powered by the sun.
A 24-year-old British boat designer has drawn up plans for what is thought to be the world's first carbon-neutral super-yacht, and has received inquiries from wealthy potential clients after unveiling the designs at recent yacht shows in Monaco and Abu Dhabi.
Alistair Callender, from Chichester in West Sussex, is promoting the idea of "eco-luxury" with plans for Soliloquy, an electricity-powered craft covered in photovoltaic film that harnesses the power of the sun. Fixed sails will double as solar panels to produce enough energy to propel the 58-metre-long boat at a cruising speed of eight knots, and even the hull will be made of sustainable timber instead of the usual more energy-intensive aluminium.
According to Hein Velema, one of the most prominent yacht brokers based in Monaco, his richest clients are intrigued by the idea of that their next floating mansion could be zero-carbon.
"I was sceptical at first, but I have spoken to a few clients who are willing to spend a serious amount extra to go green," he said. "In the current climate we are unlikely to see as many yachts as large as the Eclipse, but people will want to be first in other ways, such as being the first with a green yacht."
Last June, the world's largest private yacht, the 163-metre Eclipse, owned by Roman Abramovich, was launched complete with a military-grade missile defence system and an escape submarine. Callender said he intends his £40m vessel to appeal to the super-rich who until the global economic crisis competed to own ever larger, and often more polluting, yachts.
The global craze peaked in 2008 when 260 yachts longer than 30 metres were launched. The royal families of the UAE and Oman have spent hundreds of millions of pounds on yachts that look more like cruise ships and burn thousands of litres of diesel an hour.
A conventional yacht of the same size as Soliloquy powered on the usual marine diesel can burn up to 2,000 litres an hour travelling at 35 knots, according to Yacht Carbon Offset, a company that provides carbon offsetting for clients including Sir Philip Green, the retail magnate. A two-hour journey at that speed creates 12 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Such a craft can use a further 1,000 litres a day just to power the air-conditioning and electrical systems.
"These giant gin palaces use a huge amount of fuel and produce so much pollution, I wanted to prove the point that eco-luxury no longer needs to be an oxymoron," Callender said. "Even if billionaires don't want to be green, they can save money. There are at least 100 families around the world worth £200m or more who have invested in green technologies and businesses or made hefty financial commitments to the environment." That list includes the likes of Sir Richard Branson and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Soliloquy will feature three fixed sails rising up to 17 metres. They have been designed with solar panels built in by Solar Sailor, which has built solar-powered ferries operating in Sydney and Hong Kong and is currently helping the US navy develop unmanned solar-powered boats. The sails will be able to power the boat in winds up to 40 knots.
The superstructure of the boat above the waterline will be clad in energy-gathering photovoltaic cells, giving it a sleek, black appearance. Together with the sails, the solar panels will fuel four cells that will work in conjunction with diesel engines beneath deck when there is not enough solar power. Callender predicts the engines will only need to be fired on rare occasions, because super-yachts are mostly used in sunny climes.
The interior is likely to feature recycled leather, natural fibre upholstery and wood only from sustainable forests.