Posted by Harvest Dream on Monday, May 14. 2012 in Bioengineering, BioHazards, Corporate Power, Economy, Education, Energy, History , Intelligence , Japan/Southeast Asia, Media, Military, Perception, Radiation, Scientific Advance, Social Evolution, Social Insights, Space/Air Travel, Technology
Posted by Harvest Dream on Sunday, January 29. 2012 in BioHazards, Corporate Power, Corruption, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Food Security, Health , Infrastructure, Injustice, Marine Transport, Politics, USA
Source: Inhabitat - August 21, 2011
Ok, those Germans are just showing off now. Not only has the nation announced plans to shut down all of its nuclear power plants and started the construction of 2,800 miles of transmission lines for its new renewable energy initiative, but now the village of Wildpoldsried is producing 321% more energy than it needs! The small agricultural village in the state of Bavaria is generating an impressive $5.7 million in annual revenue from renewable energy.
It’s no surprise that the country that has kicked butt at the Solar Decathlon competition (to produce energy positive solar houses) year after year is the home to such a productive energy-efficient village. The village’s green initiative first started in 1997 when the village council decided that it should build new industries, keep initiatives local, bring in new revenue, and create no debt. Over the past 14 years, the community has equipped nine new community buildings with solar panels, built four biogas digesters (with a fifth in construction now) and installed seven windmills with two more on the way. In the village itself, 190 private households have solar panels while the district also benefits from three small hydro power plants, ecological flood control, and a natural waste water system.
All of these green systems means that despite only having a population of 2,600, Wildpoldsried produces 321 percent more energy than it needs – and it’s generating 4.0 million Euro (US $5.7 million) in annual revenue by selling it back to the national grid. It is no surprise to learn that small businesses have developed in the village specifically to provide services to the renewable energy installations.
Over the years the village’s green goals have been so successful that they have even crafted a mission statement — WIR–2020, Wildpoldsried Innovativ Richtungsweisend (Wildpoldsried Innovative Leadership). The village council hopes that it will inspire citizens to do their part for the environment and create green jobs and businesses for the local area.
As a result of the village’s success, Wildpoldsried has received numerous national and international awards for its conservation and renewable energy initiatives known as Klimaschutz (climate protection). The council even hosts tours for other village councils on how to start their own Klimaschutz program. The Mayor has even been doing global tours ever since the Fukushima disaster.
Mayor Zengerle has gone to Romania, Berlin and the Black Sea Region to speak about how these places can transform their communities and make money in the process. Speaking to Biocycle, Mayor Zengerle said, “The mitigation of climate change in practice can only be implemented with the citizens and with the Village Council behind them 100 percent of the way. This model cannot be forced from only one side. We often spend a lot of time talking to our visitors about how to motivate the village council (and Mayor) to start thinking differently. We show them a best practices model in motion and many see the benefits immediately. From the tour we give, our guests understand how well things can operate when you have the enthusiasm and conviction of the people.”
Source: The Daily Mail - August 5, 2011
Electricity officials in heatwave-hit Texas have warned of impending rolling blackouts from power shortages as the U.S. state struggles to cope with the relentless scorching temperatures.
Texans have turned to air conditioners in huge numbers in a bid to beat one of the hottest summers on record in America's second most populous state.
But bosses for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) say the soaring power demand in the face of the brutal heatwave has left the state one power plant shut-down away from rolling blackouts.
Temperatures in Texas are currently topping 100F (37.8C) and have been soaring for well over a month.
Record highs have also been recorded this week in nearby states Oklahoma and Arkansas as the relentless heatwave spreads across southern America.
In Forth Smith and Little Rock, Arkansas, the mercury hit 115F on Wednesday.
ERCOT, which runs the power grid for most of Texas, cut power to some large industrial users after electricity demand hit three consecutive records this week alone.
The grid operator now faces rolling blackouts similar to those which hit Texas during a bitter cold snap in February.
Although the electricity firm have done their best to regulate power use and prevent shortages, experts admitted a further shut-down is a possibility.
Arshad Mansoor, senior vice president at the Electric Power Research Institute, said: 'You always have to expect the unexpected can happen.
'A unit can shut. The wind may not blow.'
Ice storms in February crippled dozens of power plants, forcing ERCOT to impose rolling blackouts for hours as electric power demand outstripped supply.
Power usage in ERCOT reached its highest level ever on Wednesday at 68,294 megawatts, almost four per cent over last year's peak.
The Texas grid faces at least one more day of extreme stress before temperatures cool slightly over the weekend.
Temperatures in Houston, the state's biggest city, should return to near normal levels in the upper 90s over the weekend, according to AccuWeather.com.
The state's biggest power generators, including units of Energy Future Holdings, NRG Energy, Calpine Corp and others, have been running flat out to cash in real-time prices that have hit the $3,000/MWh cap in recent days.
But the state's reserve margins have been running razor thin. On Wednesday ERCOT came within 50 megawatts of interrupting flows to industrial customers.
One megawatt powers about 200 homes in Texas during hot weather when air conditioners are running for long periods.
Kent Saathoff, ERCOT's vice president of system planning and operations, said more generation supplies would help, but added that state power generators cannot be expected to prepare for every extreme in weather.
He said: 'You have to determine if it is worth spending millions or billions to avoid a one in 10-year event.'
With record-breaking demand came record-breaking prices. Prices for Thursday power topped $400 per megawatt hour, the highest in at least a decade. Friday's power prices approached $600.
Real-time prices also hit the $3,000 market cap over the past few days.
ERCOT has about 73,000 MW of natural gas, coal, oil, nuclear and wind generating facilities, but not all of that capacity is available all the time.
Texas has the most wind power in the country, but the wind does not blow during the summer. Ercot said it got about 2,000 MW from wind during the peak hour on Wednesday.
Source: MSNBC - June 24, 2011
A yearlong experiment with America's electric grid could mess up traffic lights, security systems and some computers — and make plug-in clocks and appliances like programmable coffeemakers run up to 20 minutes fast.
"A lot of people are going to have things break and they're not going to know why," said Demetrios Matsakis, head of the time service department at the U.S. Naval Observatory, one of two official timekeeping agencies in the federal government.
Since 1930, electric clocks have kept time based on the rate of the electrical current that powers them. If the current slips off its usual rate, clocks run a little fast or slow. Power companies now take steps to correct it and keep the frequency of the current — and the time — as precise as possible.
The group that oversees the U.S. power grid is proposing an experiment that would allow more frequency variation than it does now without corrections, according to a company presentation obtained by The Associated Press.
Source: Miller McCune - June 14, 2011
When Italy decided in the mid-’70s to add nuclear power to its power portfolio, young mechanical and nuclear engineer Cesare Silvi was among those attracted to the opportunities it presented. His work centered on nuclear safety issues — in particular, what might happen if something unexpected struck a power plant.
Corners he saw cut there eventually soured Silvi on that endeavor. His next position — at the Italian Commission on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Sources, which included work on nuclear disarmament — eventually soured him on nuclear energy itself.
“[If we] continue with nuclear power, there will definitely be worse accidents,” he argued in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi disaster. Over the weekend, Italian voters agreed and overwhelming rejected restarting nuclear power in their country.
“Why not consider Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima as warnings of greater catastrophes to come and avoid the inevitable by shutting them down, much like changing your diet and/or lifestyle after finding out that your cholesterol or blood pressure is elevated, rather than continuing down the same path until a heart attack or stroke strikes?”
In the meantime, he suggests that wrangling existing power plants requires a global response toward the dangers he predicts.
“Instead of a Kyoto accord,” he says, “we will have to have some kind of multilateral nuclear agreement to deal with such threats.”
In the last two decades, Silvi has gone on to acclaim in the world of solar energy, where has been president of the International Solar Energy Society and founder of the Italian Group for the History of Solar Energy.
Silvi originally worked in the north of Italy as a engineer. He did not like the polluted Po River valley, where the smell from various industries near his flat — despite his boss’ assurances of “You’ll get used to it” — annoyed him.
Then the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and its attendant oil crisis prompted the Italian government to consider nuclear energy, and a door opened for Silvi. The newly formed Italian National Commission on Nuclear Energy sought out young engineers like Silvi, who saw the opportunity as a means to return home to Rome. His top scores on the entrance tests won him a spot in the Directorate for Nuclear Safety and Radioactive Protection, and in 1975, the directorate tasked Silvi to examine and analyze threats to the well-being of nuclear power plants from the outside environment.
“I was looking at low-possibility events, like a meteor striking the housing of a reactor or a car thrown at it by a tornado. These definitely had a small chance of happening, but the end result would have been horrific.” Plus, he says now, the proliferation of nuclear plants just adds more targets.
“Many laughed at such speculation and planning,” he says, “but then again, how many would have taken seriously a recommendation of extending the height of the seawall at Fukishima another six meters? They would have questioned your sanity, if you had argued that the 10-meter barrier was inadequate.
“Our problem is that we don’t know what will happen on any scale of time. Such uncertainty is OK when dealing with train trips or dinner choices. But it becomes problematic when considering the possible spread of very dangerous material that will stay deadly for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.”
In his introduction to risk analysis, Silvi provides a very simple equation: R=PxC. In English, that translates to the probability of something happening (the P) times the consequences if it does (C) equals the risk to society (R).
He illustrates this by comparing driving on the Italian highway, the Autostrada, with running a nuclear power station. Driving on the Autostrada has a low risk to the general population. A possibility does exist that you will crash, and perhaps die as a result, but the consequences of the accident to the general society will be next to nil. That’s why countries let almost anyone drive. So a moderately high P times a very low C equals a small risk to society as a whole.
On the other hand, the chance of an earthquake and tsunami of the magnitude that hit Japan are quite remote, especially occurring in tandem, which makes for a tiny P. But the consequences — the C — of them imperiling a nuclear power plant are huge, leading to a much higher risk to society.
That equation played out in the Soviet Union a quarter-century ago at Chernobyl, and the aftereffects still ripple throughout Europe. A 1,600-square-mile exclusionary zone in Ukraine and southern Belarus remains off limits. Students gestated during the Chernobyl disaster in contaminated regions as far north as Sweden and Norway have shown poorer performance in school and lower verbal IQ scores.
Silvi’s sincere assessment of outside threats ultimately butted up against unfortunate human constraints.
“One day,” Silvi recalls, “the boss said, ‘Figure out how far should a nuclear plant be from an airport.’ As I did my study, I found that it wasn’t too easy to protect the reactor from a plane crash. The plant can be perfect from the inside, but the problem arises: How many low-probability events that could result in devastating consequences do you protect against through proper construction before such expenditures make the plant too costly to operate? Even if we could affordably, say, pay to reinforce the plant to withstand a hit from a plane or missile, the question never leaves you — ‘Have I figured in everything that might damage the nuclear reactor over its long lifetime?
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