It might look like something from a sci-fi film, but this huge floating device is actually set to provide green electricity and Wi-Fi to residents of the remote city of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Designed and constructed by MIT startup Altaeros Energies, this futuristic floating marvel is a new type of airborne wind turbine dubbed the BAT – or Buoyant Airborne Turbine, if you prefer.
We’ve covered several varieties of airborne turbine in the past, including the Highest Wind power station, which works on a glider-and-tether system, and the Makani Power winged turbine, which was bought outright by Google around a year ago.
However, both of those designs seemed years away. Altaeros Energies are confident that the BAT is a green commercial energy source that’s ready for now.
The promise of generating energy with nuclear fusion is tantalizing because it would be free of toxic emissions and nuclear waste, and would have a virtually infinite fuel supply. On the downside, though, it is extremely costly compared with fossil fuels like natural gas and coal.
A fresh call for an expanded energy efficiency target from environmentalists claims that the UK could boost the British economy by £62bn.
At a time where the 20% by 2020 targets are looming large over the heads of the government – in which the UK and other members of the European Union have committed to a 20% market share for renewables and 20% emissions cut by the end of the decade – the WWF has claimed that UK should be setting the bar even higher, and could see significant financial rewards for doing so.
WWF gained access to an unpublished EU study carried out by independent consultants Cambridge Econometrics, thanks to an access to information request.
In the study, figures serve to highlight the benefits of, not just bringing in renewable commercial energy sources, but the huge potential gain by engineering the economy itself to use less energy.
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The problem with solar power is storing it. Unless you use connection to an electricity grid, the power has to be used immediately in your watch or a road sign. Now the chemists of Ohio State University have produced the first solar battery. A solar panel allows air to enter the device through a mesh so that a titanium dioxide gauze photoelectrode can combine with an oxygen electrode to charge a lithium-oxygen battery.
A triiodide/iodide shuttle is coupled with the electrodes to produce triiodide ions on the photelectrode which oxidise lithium peroxide. This means that in layman terms, the lithium-oxygen batterys problem of overpotential is overcome at last by chemical oxidisation. Of course the aim has also been to cut costs, and this has been achieved, so far by 25%. Normally there is also a loss of energy (electrons) in the transition from solar cells to external batteries. By including the battery in the cell, almost 100% of the electrons make it to the battery and recharge it.
This is a breathing battery, according to Professor Wu, the professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the university. It even breathes out when it breaks down lithium peroxide into the metal. The titanium gauze has 200 micrometre holes with rods of titanium dioxide grown across them like grass b lades. Oxygen from the air can easily pass through. The lithium part of the battery is a thin plate, underneath a porous carbon sheet and layers of iodide electrolyte.
Energy comparison websites that “make the grade” can now display a Confidence Code ‘badge’ which tells consumers they can trust the sites’ advice.
Ofgem proposed making the changes to the voluntary code of practice after its research found more consumers are using comparison sites to shop around for the best energy deals and switch suppliers.
It revealed 31% of people used a comparison service to move to a different energy company this year – up from 26% last year.
We already knew the uptake by the public was less than expected, and last week we heard how small businesses were also shirking away from it, and now a parliamentary committee has dubbed the government’s Green Deal a ‘disappointing failure’.
A group of MPs was called upon to evaluate the loan scheme, which was designed to help update Britain’s ageing and energy-inefficient housing stock, and gave their verdict on Monday as part of the Energy and Climate Change select committee on Monday.
Launching in January 2013, the Green Deal started out as a loan arrangement, but even an early 2014 revamp to the payback structure of the program couldn’t turn fortunes around, the committee said yesterday.
Flawed planning, poor implementation and unclear messaging were three of the key factors that MPs said held the Green Deal back from helping drive down commercial energy costs through less draughty homes and businesses.
Greg Barker, the former energy minister who launched the scheme, said that he would have ‘sleepless nights if 10,000 households hadn’t signed up by the end of 2013’; as of the end of July 2014, less than 4,000 homes had signed up.
“With such extremely low levels of take-up eighteen months into the life of the policy, the Green Deal has so far been a failure,” the committee says.
The report of the Warburton inquiry, commissioned by Australia’s government as a hatchet job on the renewable electricity industry, has unintentionally demonstrated that renewables pose a real alternative to coal-fired electricity and are undermining the viability of incumbent generators.
But can renewable energy provide a solution to the problem of decarbonising the economy? To understand the problems and the process, it is worth thinking about the “paperless office”.
The paperless office started out as a visionary idea. In turn, it became a marketing slogan and a target of derision. Now, after four decades, it is finally becoming a reality.
The development of minicomputers and word processors in the 1970s led some farsighted thinkers to realise that computers would eventually have the same impact on office work, based on text, as they had already had on numerical tasks like payroll calculation. The phrase “the paperless office” came to prominence in a 1975 Businessweek article, The Office of the Future.
Twenty years later as personal computers became ubiquitous, the cost of storage plummeted, and email became generally available, it seemed that the time was right.
But supporters of paper started to push back, with arguments that are now familiar. Paper has marvellous properties that can’t be reproduced by any computer system. It is light, accessible anywhere, and (at least in its acid-free archival form) lasts forever. It can be read in any light, and annotated with ease. Improved technology, it was claimed, would lead to more paper, not less.
A new survey carried out by the Federation of Small Business (FSB) has found that almost a third of it’s members said the cost of energy was a barrier to growth for their company.
Carried out across the 8,000 FSB members, the survey revealed that the cost of electricity, water and gas for their business remains a significant concern for owners. With little spare capital to invest in renewable energy solutions such as solar panels, it seems that as many corporations are able to make grandstand launches of energy efficiency measures (like Microsoft’s solar-powered offices or Google’s wind-turbine-fuelled data centres) smaller businesses are being left behind.
According to Mike Cherry, FSB national policy chairman, the options for smaller businesses are limited.
“Small firms do have the appetite to be more energy efficient, namely because of the obvious benefits to keeping the cost of doing business down. However, for firms to take on energy efficient measures in real numbers, they need the payback to be quick and the upfront costs to be small.
Hospitals are being asked to share how prepared they are – if at all – for climate change by the NHS’s Sustainable Development Unit (SDU).
The query comes after warnings nine in ten hospital wards are at risk of overheating because of climate change-related rising temperatures. The worrying research for the Committee on Climate Change was published in July.
Ability to control ward temperatures is often limited, pointed out the subcommittee of the CCC behind the report, advising that the Care Quality Commission should consider setting standards for maximum temperatures in hospitals.