alternative energy

89 Year Old Man Develops Bladeless Bird-Friendly Wind Turbine

The Catching Wind Power (CWP) Compressed Air Enclosed Wind Turbine:

“Traditional three blade turbines knock the birds out of the sky because the birds can not see the massive, spinning, blades that turn between 80mph and 190mph, therefore hitting them and knocking them to the ground, killing them. Our design does not have any external moving parts to hit the birds. Our unit is easy to see so the birds can avoid it, and all moving parts are internal. The blades are mounted behind the windsock and inner compression cone, therefore making them nonaccessible to birds. Also, our turbines make virtually no noise.”
Chernobyl could soon find a second life as a giant solar farm
Revitalising a wasteland.
By Josh Hrala

The Ukrainian government has announced a plan to turn the area surrounding Chernobyl - the site of one of the worst nuclear meltdowns in history - into a solar energy farm, by constructing a series of solar panels inside the exclusion zone.

Not only would this plan - which is currently seeking investment - allow the country to use a giant chunk of radioactive land that’s unfit for human settlement, it would also provide a cheaper source of reusable energy that might decrease the country’s reliance on Russia.

“The Chernobyl site has really good potential for renewable energy,” Ukraine’s environment minister Ostap Semerak said in an interview in London. “We already have high-voltage transmission lines that were previously used for the nuclear stations, the land is very cheap and we have many people trained to work at power plants.”

Continue Reading.


Will a Marine Plastic Harvester Shrink the World’s Giant Floating Garbage Patches?

These gifs show the latest concept from a project called The Ocean Cleanup to retrieve some of the millions of tons of plastic waste choking the world’s oceans. 

The idea is to deploy long floating barriers at mid-ocean gyres that naturally collect garbage shed by land and ships. The booms would be set up so that the motion of ocean currents would do the work to corral plastics in concentrated areas, where a solar-powered collection platform would extract the waste for recycling.

The group, which is led by 20-year-old founder Boyan Slat and includes volunteer oceanography and engineering specialists, estimates it will cost a little less than $5 per kilogram to remove the garbage. They have already completed a proof-of-concept project demonstrating their design and conducted a feasibility study, in which they estimate that each garbage patch that has developed in the world’s five major gyres could be reduced by half within 10 years. The people behind The Ocean Cleanup hope to launch a coastal pilot study sometime in 2016 and to start full-scale operations in late 2019. Learn more and see a video below.

Keep reading


World’s largest laser produces nuclear fusion!*

No, that’s not giant pencil. It’s the inside of a fusion reactor, where lasers are focused onto a tiny pellet of frozen hydrogen gas (image courtesy of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory). Those photos at the bottom show the capsule that contains this fuel. Here’s a video that explains how the giant laser system (housed at the National Ignition Facility) works:

*Have we harnessed the energy of the stars? Not quite. Strictly speaking, while more energy came from fusion than went into the hydrogen fuel, only about 1 percent of the laser’s energy ever reached the fuel. The process still used a lot more energy than it generated.

Read all the details, from NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel, here.

First algae powered building goes up in Hamburg

A 15-unit apartment building has been constructed in the German city of Hamburg that has 129 algae filled louvered tanks hanging over the exterior of the south-east and south-west sides of the building—making it the first in the world to be powered exclusively by algae. Designed by Arup, SSC Strategic Science Consultants and Splitterwerk Architects, and named the Bio Intelligent Quotient (BIQ) House, the building demonstrates the ability to use algae as a way to heat and cool large buildings.

Read more
World's Largest Solar Project Would Generate Electricity 24 Hours a Day, Power 1 Million U.S. Homes
The race to build the world's largest solar power plant is heating up.
By EcoWatch

The race to build the world’s largest solar power plant is heating up. California-based energy company SolarReserve announced plans for a massive concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in Nevada that claims to be the largest of its kind once built.

SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the $5 billion endeavor would generate between 1,500 and 2,000 megawatts of power, enough to power about 1 million homes. That amount of power is as much as a nuclear power plant, or the 2,000-megawatt Hoover Dam and far bigger than any other existing solar facility on Earth, the Review-Journal pointed out.

“It’s a big project,” Smith told the publication. “It’s an ambitious project.”

Continue Reading.


Altaeros Energies’ Buoyant Wind Turbine (BAT) Floats in the Sky

The Buoyant Wind Turbine (BAT) is designed to take advantage of high altitude winds, which are often five times greater than those found at typical wind turbine heights. Composed of an inflatable helium shell with stabilizing fins and turbine in the middle, the BAT also has the advantage of being quickly deployable, making it a potential power source for remote areas and emergency zones. The BAT, which would float about 1,000 ft. above the landscape, also addresses the noise and aesthetic concerns commonly lobbed at wind turbines. A strong cable tethers the turbine to the ground and also acts as the conduit through which electricity flows. 


See Dr. Sahin’s Wondrous Spore-Driven Evaporation Engine

It sounds like a steampunk fantasy, but it is, in fact, a real thing. 

Columbia University bioengineers have built a number of working engines powered by water evaporation and contracting and expanding bacterial spores. The machines represent the first time the humidity that naturally rises from evaporating water has been used as a fuel source.

Biophysicist Ozgur Sahin and his colleagues built evaporation-driven devices that enabled a miniature car to move, a mill to spin, weight to be lifted and an oscillatory engine to power LEDs.

The work is actually a continuation of research we reported on in 2014 to generate electricity and make robot muscles from the force of hydrating and dehydrating microbial spores. But where that study showed only rudimentary lengths of polymer film coated with the spores flexing when in contact with water vapor, the group has now created working machinery using the phenomenon. Learn more and see a video below.

Keep reading
Report: World can Rid Itself of Fossil Fuel Dependence in as Little as 10 Years
A new report looks at the proliferation of nuclear power across Sweden and France, two of the international leaders in the nuclear power movement.

As we race against time to implement alternative energy sources, a new report published in the journal PLoS One suggests that the world could completely replace fossil fuels with nuclear power in as little as a decade.
Ontario to convert largest coal plant in North America to solar farm
Idled in 2013, and formerly the largest emitter in Canada, Nanticoke coal plant will be converted to a 44 MW solar installation

In an all-too-fitting sign of the times, the grounds of the idle Nanticoke Generating Station—once North America’s largest coal plant—will soon be lined with solar panels.

Ceasing energy production in 2013 as part of Ontario’s phase-out of coal energy, the enormous plant, which could produce almost 4,000 megawatts of power at full capacity, was officially shuttered for safety reasons last year. But the strip of land on the north shore of Lake Erie will soon begin churning out power once again—only this time, the electricity will be emissions-free.

As part of the Independent Electricity System Operator’s 455 MW power procurement announcement earlier this week, the Nanticoke, Ont. site will be repurposed to house a 44 MW solar farm.

“The Nanticoke project is a great opportunity for Ontario to take a former coal plant site and transform it into a clean and reliable solar power plant,” Michelle Chislett, SunEdison vice-president and country manager for Canada, said.

“This project is a great example of how countries are retiring coal plants and replacing them with clean, renewable power plants,” she added.

Continue Reading.


Achieving Nuclear Fusion

Since the nuclear age began explosively in 1945, dozens of countries have developed a more peaceful means of using nuclear technology—to produce energy. Nuclear fission is the process of splitting the nucleus of an atom into two or more smaller nuclei, releasing some excess mass as energy. Although nuclear fission creates clean energy without carbon dioxide emissions, it does produce radioactive waste that is hard to dispose of safely.

Nuclear fisson’s “opposite” is nuclear fusion, a process where two smaller nuclei collide to form a larger single one, again releasing large amounts of energy. The Sun produces its immense energy by nuclear fusion—indeed, every single star in the sky shines because it has a giant nuclear fusion reactor at its core.

Using nuclear fusion on Earth to replace nuclear fission is the holy grail of nuclear research, because fuel is abundant, radioactive waste is minimal, and uncontrolled reactions are rare. But achieving sustained, controlled fusion is much tougher than fission. Smashing two atoms together requires huge amounts of energy, because they need to be travelling at enormous speeds in order to overcome the repulsive forces between protons in the nucleus. To reach these speeds, enormous temperatures are needed—temperatures in our Sun’s core soar above 10 million Kelvin, and in bigger stars they can reach 15 million Kelvin or more.

Imagine trying to recreate that environment here on Earth: 10 million Kelvin is almost unimaginably hot, instantly vaporising most materials, so one of the main issues for researchers (beyond actually reaching those temperatures) is keeping the intense conditions contained.

At the moment, there are two main types of nuclear fusion reactors in development, classified by their containers: magnetic confinement reactors and inertial confinement reactors.

Magnetic confinement reactors work on the principle that a magnetic field exerts a force on a moving charged particle. Inside a reactor, extreme temperatures break atoms into their constituent electrons and ions, forming an electrically-charged plasma. Magnetic fields are set up so they bend this plasma into continuous loops, keeping it from touching the walls of the container and buying time to allow the plasma to get hot enough for fusion to begin. The tokamak approach is the most well-known type of magnetic confiment reactors, used in the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor at Princeton. Built in the 1980s, the TFTR operated until 1997 and advanced the technique in leaps and bounds. A new reactor using the tokamak approach is currently being developed in France, though setbacks and budget issues mean it likely won’t be in operation until 2033.

While magnetic confinement reactors aim to buy time, inertial confinement reactors aim to fuse nuclei so quickly that they can’t move far at all. These reactors direct an enormous influx of energy onto a tiny pellet of nuclear fusion fuel, so the nuclei fuse in a time interval of 10-11 to 10-9 seconds (i.e., 0.0000000001 seconds to 0.00000001 seconds). Laser fusion and ion-beam fusion are both sub-types of inertial confinement reactors, but the most advanced test reactors use laser fusion, notably at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories.

Companies and government facilities have been hot on the trail of fusion for over sixty years, and it always seems like they’re just a decade or two away from achieving commercially-viable nuclear fusion. Keep an eye on the two methods outlined above—and while we wait, perhaps we should focus on harnessing nuclear power that’s already been created for us: solar energy.

(Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Algae Converted To Crude Oil In One Hour

by Michael Keller

An innovative process that starts with an algae slurry efficiently produces crude oil in less than an hour, researchers say.  

The biocrude oil can then be refined conventionally into gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory engineers say their method is a continuous process that beats previous attempts to harness algae as fuel.

They say their work has led to a cheaper and less energy intensive technique. It also results in a wastewater stream from which flammable gas can be recovered and nutrients that can grow more algae.

“Cost is the big roadblock for algae-based fuel,” said lead researcher Douglas Elliott in a statement. “We believe that the process we’ve created will help make algae biofuels much more economical.”

Keep reading