Building the World

August 19, 2017
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Eclipses and Innovations

Solar Eclipse: Image: NASA, 2016.

The Great American Eclipse, 21 August 2017, may lead to innovations. Thomas Edison is said to have invented the incandescent light bulb after witnessing a total eclipse in Wyoming, USA in 1878. Just the year before, at the age of 30, Edison had invented the phonograph. Friends engaged Edison’s scientific and technical curiosity with word of an impending celestial wonder; a train ride to Rawlins, Wyoming ensued. The town was tiny: there was only one hotel and only one room left; Thomas Edison, Henry Draper, and the whole expedition bunked there and waited. The night before the eclipse, Edison recalled reclining outdoors and staring at the star-lit sky; suddenly the idea for a light bulb appeared. Perhaps Edison was also influenced by recent demonstrations of Pavel Nikolayevich Yablochkov’s arc lighting at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1878. A few years later, Gustav Eiffel would open the Paris International Exposition of 1889 with the Eiffel Tower.

Wear special sunglasses to view an eclipse. For more, see: eclipse@siu.edu. Image: wikimedia.

Yablochkov’s arc lamps were used by early movie studios for indoor scenes, but produced so much ultra-violet light that actors had to wear sunglasses. Even more protective are the special glasses viewers must don to view the Great American Eclipse of 2017. MIT’s Haystack Observatory will study the eclipse effects on space weather with radar and navigational satellites. Nasa and scientists worldwide will study the space phenomenon from every place on earth, and above. Eyes on the sky: what inventions and innovations may result?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

August 11, 2017
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Grid Luck

Denmark, state banner from 14th century, location of world’s first vehicle-to-grid (V2G) commercial charging station. Image: wikimedia commons.

Batteries in electric cars could help to balance the grid. In 2017 electric vehicles drew 6-terawatt-hours; by 2040, draw will expand to a predicted 1,800 terawatt hours. Tokyo-based automaker Nissan is conducting trials in Denmark where car fleet operators earn $1,530 (€1300 Euro) per year via two-way charge points. Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) infrastructure could be a sign of the future. Major highway systems take note.

It may be time for a systems view of electric vehicles, predicted to account for 54% of new car sales by 2040, Electric cars will transform highways like the U.S. Interstate Highway system – more than 45,000 miles, and even more dramatically the service areas nearby. Should the Pan-American Highway, 30,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina, be the first to offer a network of V2G? Canada and the United States could rebuild the Alaska Highway for a new era. On a local level, commuter rail stations are adding charging stations; shopping centers are dotted with ChargePoint and Tesla pods. Every one of these installations is an opportunity for rebuilding the automotive energy system.

If the Nissan/Enel/Nuvve commercial vehicle-to-grid hub of 10 stations proves successful, Ernesto Ciorra of Enel predicts: “With V2G we can enhance grid stability, further enabling the integration of renewables. V2G is one of the sustainable innovation areas that is taking us towards a low-carbon society for the benefit of present and future generations.” As the number of electric vehicles increases is the future of gridlock, grid luck?

For more:

“Parked Electric Cars Earn $1,530 From Europe’s Power Grids.” By Jessica Shankleman, 11 August 2017, Bloomberg.https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-11/parked-electric-cars-earn-1-530-feeding-power-grids-in-europe

“Nissan, Enel and Nuvve operate world’s first fully commercial vehicle-to-grid hub in Denmark.” Nissan Newsroom Europe, 29 August 2016/ID: 149186. http://newsroom.nissan-europe.com/eu-gb/media/pressreleases/149186

“Electric Cars Will Total More Than 50% Of All New Car Sales By 2040,BNEF Forecasts.” By Steve Hanley.  CleanTechnica, 6 July 2017.https://cleantechnica.com/2017/07/06/electric-cars-will-total-half-new-car-sales-2040-bnef/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

May 26, 2017
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Golden Opportunity? Coal to Wind

“Green River of Wyoming.” Artist, Thomas Moran, 1878. Image: wikimedia commons

A golden opportunity may be dawning, not only for energy but for employment, from coal to wind. There’s precedent: many workers on the Transcontinental Railroad were “navvies” – a term coined to describe those who built navigable waterways including the Erie Canal. Skills in technologies, combined with the ability to work in remote locations: these are the same valuable traits that may now transform the coal industry. Carbon County, Wyoming, is launching a job training program for coal miners to become wind farm technicians. Wyoming produces more coal than any other American state; but geography makes it ideal for wind, with 850 turbines planned, perhaps leading to a change in tax policy.  Job training is free, offered by Goldwind, a leading wind turbine manufacturer in Urumqi, Xinjiang, China, famous hub of the Silk Road. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal: will the celebration include the training and development of workers who changed the American economy? Might the future feature transformation from coal to wind, as skilled workers take on new industries to rebuild energy and environment?

Baeumier, Axel, Ede Ijjasa-Vasque, Shomik Mehndirrata, eds. Sustainable Low-Carbon City Development in China. The World Bank, 2012. ISBN: 9780821389881 (ebook).

Cardwell, Diane. “Wind Project in Wyoming Envisions Coal Miners as Trainees.” 21 May 2017. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/21/business/energy-environment/wind-turbine-job-training-wyoming.html?_r=0

Goldwind. In Chinese: http://goldwind.cn; in English: http://www.goldwindglobal.com/web/index.do

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

April 26, 2017
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Fountain of Hope

Water is the hope of the MOF-801. Here, the largest floating fountain in Europe, Multimedia Fountain Roshen, Ukraine. Image: wikimedia.

Two-thirds of the earth’s population may soon need more water, especially in arid regions. Australia, India, North Africa, and areas of the United States and Mexico, to name but a few, are rich in sun but poor in water. Using the sun to power a metal-organic framework (MOF) that acts like a sponge to soak up humidity, Omar Yaghi of the University of California Berkeley and Evelyn Wang of MIT, and team, have developed MOF-801 that could be carried in a suitcase, set up in a solar view, and immediately produce enough water for a family of four.

Hyunjo Kim, Sungwoo Yang, Sameer R. Rao, Shankar Narayanan, Eugene A. Kapustin, Hiroyasu Furukawa, Ari S. Umans, Omar M. Yaghi, Evelyn N. Wang. “Water harvesting from air with metal-organic frameworks powered by natural sunlight.” Science, 13 April 2017: eaam8743. DOI: 10.1126/science.aam8743. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2017/04/12/science.aam8743/tab-figures-data/

Urieff, Kaya. “New solar-powered device makes water out of desert air.” 19 April 2017, CNN.com. http://cnnmon.ie/2pg50FR/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

 

April 22, 2017
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It’s Earth Day: Look Up!

Ra, Egyptian sun god. Artist: Jeff Dahl. Image: wikimedia commons.

Earth Day. Could the answer to our planet’s energy problems and resultant climate change be found by looking up? Every culture on earth has myths about the sun. For example, Egypt worshipped Ra, the sun god whose falcon head was crowned with a solar disk. In 1973, building upon the success of COMSAT and the Apollo Moon Landing, Peter Glaser was awarded the United States patent for solar power from space, via satellite. Honored in the spring, as the sky glows with a stronger light, Earth Day might call us to look up.

Thanks to Jacques Horvilleur, and Lucien Deschamps, and Sociéte de électricité et des électronique et des technologies de l’information et de la communication (SEE), Société des Ingénieurs et Scientifiques de France (ISF).

For solar power from space: http://archive.org/details/sps91powerfromsp00unse/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

April 14, 2017
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Why is an Orange like a Light Bulb?

The water-energy-food nexus may influence the growing of oranges, in competition for lightbulbs and drinking water. Image: wikimedia commons.

Did you know that growing one orange requires 13.8 gallons of water? Next time you crunch into an almond, you’ll consume the result of one gallon. California grows both: a result, in part, of the Colorado River Compact. Edward Spang of the University of California Davis, as well as colleagues including David H. Marks of MIT, predict competition for water use will increase in the water-energy-food nexus. Spang developed a water consumption for energy production (WCEP) indicator, comparing the use of water for different forms of energy in over 150 countries. Fossil fuels and biofuels require the most water; wind is less thirsty. The United Nations cites the World Water Development Report: “If water, energy, and food security are to be simultaneously achieved, decision-makers, including those responsible for only a single sector, need to consider broader influences and cross-sectoral impacts. A nexus approach is needed.”

For more: Spang, Edward. “A Thirst for Power: A Global Analysis of Water Consumption for Energy Production.” GWF Discussion Paper 1246. Global Water Forum, Canberra, Australia. http://www.globalwaterforum.org/2012/10/23/a-thirst-for-power-a-global-analysis-of-water-consmption-for-energy-production/and also see: http://cwee.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/10-25-2013-ThirstforPower_Final.pdf

“Multiple metrics for quantifying the intensity of water consumption of energy production.” E.S. Spang, W.R. Moomaw, K.S. Gallagher, P. H. Kirshen, and D.H. Marks. 8 October 2014. Environmental Research Letters, Volume 9, Number 10. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/9/10/105003/meta

Ahuja, Satinder, Editor. Food, Energy, and Water. Elsevier 2015. https://www.elsevier.com/books/food-energy-and-water/ahuja/978-0-12-800211-7

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

November 25, 2016
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Island in the Sun

Rose Atoll, American Samoa. Image: NASA.gov.

4,000 miles + 600 people + cost of diesel delivery = innovation. T’au traded fossil fuels for renewable energy via solar collectors combined with storage batteries. Building a microgrid generating 1.4 megawatts of energy, powered by 60 Tesla power packs and 5,328 solar panels, American Samoan island T’au can supply residents and businesses with electricity. In case clouds shroud the island in the sun, battery power runs for three days. Islands in space, like satellites launched by Comsat, Nasa, and the International Space Station, rely upon solar energy. But oceanic islands formerly waited for boats to deliver diesel to power generators. T’au’s solar innovation, funded by contributors including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, and American Samoa Economic Development Authority, may set a new standard for renewable energy. Next? Tesla and partner Solar City hope to apply the model to Hawaiian island, Kaua’i.

Thanks to Jason W. Lusk for suggesting this post.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

October 7, 2016
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India and the Climate of Peace

Be the change you want to see: Gandhi. Image: wikimedia commons.

India has ratified the Paris Climate Agreement.  The land of the Taj Mahal has a sense of ceremony; the historic decision was taken on October 2, Gandhi’s birthday. Joining other carbon giants, China and United States who both ratified the agreement in September, India declared its intention to pursue “development without destruction.” India, accounting for 4.5 percent of carbon emissions becomes the 62nd nation to deliver a legal instrument of ratification. To date, enough countries have now joined and ratified that only 3 percent point more are needed to reach the 55 percent required; the 55-nation aspect has already been met and surpassed. It is predicted that the Climate Agreement will come into effect on 4 November 2016. Mahatma Gandhi’s message of humanism, environmentalism, and pacifism” is celebrated by the way and date of India’s ratification of the agreement to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius. India set the goal of producing 40% of its electricity with non-fossil fuels by 2030. October 2 is also the International Day of Nonviolence.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

September 3, 2016
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The 38% Solution

Will 38 soon become 88? Image: wikimedia.

China and the United States have both ratified the Paris climate agreement. In Hangzhou, on the eve of the G20, China greeted arriving American President Obama with the announcement. Together, the two nations account for 38% of the world’s carbon emissions. The Paris agreement’s goal is to hold global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). Will Christiana Figueres, chief architect of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and her words delivered on 6 April 2016 to the University of Massachusetts Boston at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, inspire the world to build a better future?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

 

August 8, 2016
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Olympic Feat

Olympic Gold medalist Michael Phelps, Beijing 2008. Image: wikimedia commons.

Olympic Games are paved with gold (and silver, bronze, and brilliance.) In Rio, Olympic Gold was won by Michael Phelps, crowning the swimmer as the most decorated Olympian, adding to eight golds awarded in Beijing 2008, four golds and two silvers in London 2012. During the London Olympics, a parallel Olympic feat, or perhaps one should say ‘feet,’ marked a milestone in energy and environment. The West Ham Tube station near the London Olympic stadium was paved with 12 electricity pavers, activated by a million footsteps. Renewable, wireless electricity, thus generated, powered 12 LED floodlights at the subway station during the Olympic and Paralympics Games. Laurence Kemball-Cook conceived the idea as a university student, at the age of 25, and soon founded PaveGen. Generative floors power only the immediate area, only when stepped upon, but that’s enough to illuminate an LED street lamp. Or imagine a mall or hospital lobby where an average of 250,000 steps occur; that’s enough to power 10,000 mobile phones. PaveGen technology grows stronger; over 100 locations worldwide, including dance clubs, shine. Will Fitbit readouts soon include energy generated? Kemball-Cook observes that “the average person takes 150 million steps in their lifetime, just imagine the potential.” Future goals: paving areas in Mumbai, where people currently lack access to electricity. More visions: universities, schools, sporting venues, hospitals, shopping malls, grocery stores, greenways and sportsways — places where many steps are taken — could add floors to their energy system. When Tokyo hosted the 1964 Olympics, a milestone in transport and energy was achieved: Shinkansen. Tokyo will again host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics; Beijing, 2022. PyeongChang is next, in 2018. The Olympic path has always been paved with gold; now, also paved with light?

Lawrence Kemball-Cook, TEDtalk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_vPbhYqg2k

“Green sidewalk makes electricity — one footstep at a time.” George Webster, CNN, 13 October 2011. http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/13/tech/innovation/pavegen-kinetic-pavements/

http://www.pavegen.com

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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