Category Archives: technology
Every hour the sun bathes Earth with as much energy as all human civilization uses in an entire year. Let me tell you about some spectacular and pragmatic solar technologies helping to reduce our global carbon footprint.
Austrian and Japanese scientists have recently pioneered solar cells thinner than a thread of spider silk. These new ultra thin solar cells are so flexible they can be wrapped tightly around a single human hair.
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Earth gives us everything we need including an abundance of renewable energy. The challenge is to know where to look. Ever watched the waves crash against the Malibu shoreline?
Worldwide ocean waves provide up to 2 terawatts of instantaneous electricity (1 terrawatt equals 1 trillion watts), which is twice the electricity generating capacity currently consume on planet Earth.
Imagine this wondrous constant ebb and flow of the ocean or an energy-generating source just waiting to be harnessed. And then think of all the green jobs made in America that ocean wave technologies will support.
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NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York calculated that the Earth’s temperature has been warming at a rate of 0.19 degrees Celsius per decade for the past 30 years. Moreover records from Antarctica ice cores show that the global temperature is within 1 degree Celsius of reaching the highest temperature in the last one million years. And human-induced CO2 levels have reached an unprecedented level not seen on the planet since the middle of the Pliocene, over three million years ago. Can science, technology and entrepreneurs slow down our globe from overheating? Yes.
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In Nature there is no such thing as waste. And billionaire, investor extraordinaire Warren Buffett believes that business should follow Nature’s model.
In a recent interview Buffett offered 10 ways to get rich, near the top of his list was watching every expense closely because each one effects profits. Many captains of industry including CEOs of Coca Cola and Interface – the worlds largest carpet company are reducing waste, using less water and following Nature’s model. Furthermore, many CEOs understand that: The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment.
In the United States the amount of trash generated annually is staggering – if you lined up garbage trucks they would reach halfway to the moon each year.
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The price of fossil fuels is extremely volatile; burning them releases greenhouse gases; and a byproduct from coal energy is toxic mercury vapor, which has contaminated the Arctic and now melt-waters are circulating mercury in our oceans.
For every problem there are at least three solutions.
Silicon Valley venture capitalists like the legendary John Doerr, Vinod Khosla (co-founder of SunMirco Systems), Larry Page (co-founder of Google) and the late John Walton (of the Wal-Mart family) are pouring billions of dollars into start-ups developing photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight directly to electricity.
In the 1960s innovators and investors believed that the computer industry would revolutionize our lives. They took it from zero machines to almost a billion in 30 years, doubling processing speed every 24 months or less and cutting costs in half each time the speed doubled.
In 1965, Intel co-founder Dr Gordon Moore predicted that the number of transistors on a chip doubles about every two years. He was correct and it’s known as Moore’s Law.
Innovators and investors today are betting on Moore’s Law to capture sunshine and change the world again.
In 2007 the total solar capacity worldwide was just 6.6 gigawatts, compared to more than 1,000 gigawatts for coal. In the U.S., solar cells provided less than 0.05 percent of the electricity supplied. By 2013, solar energy will be producing at least 75 gigawatts or an elevenfold increase from today.
Currently, the shortfall is a cost effective means of storage because of the nature of sunlight not shinning 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The same problem confronts other renewable energy source – particularly wind.
Research is forging ahead on improving batteries and developing storage technologies like excess electricity to pump water up into reservoirs for use later in hydroelectric generators.
The cost of solar energy is for the meantime expensive.
There are three different ways the industry is attacking the cost problem.
The first approach is to increase efficiencies of existing technologies while lowering the cost of crystalline-silicon cells.
The second strategy is to jump to cheap next generation nanotechnologies by producing quantities of photovoltaic foil or fabric (likened by some to Astroturf) even if it generates less energy per square foot.
The third plan is a premium price for quality – innovators are cramming the most efficiency onto the smallest possible cells, wrapping the cells into optics using mirrors and concentrating the sun’s intensity by 500 to 1,000 times.
The cost of outfitting the average home with solar panels is about $21,000 or enough to generate approximately 3 kilowatts. Those panels will last for at least 30 years.
That works out to be about $7 per watt, when it drops to $1 per watt it out competes coal. But don’t forget, in the U.S. the coal industry receives $20 billion a year in subsidies.
Every hour the sun bathes the earth with as much energy as all human civilization uses in an entire year.
If only 9.5 percent of that energy were converted to electricity – a square of land 116 miles on a side could produce enough electricity to power the entire North American continent.
In 2007, China became the third biggest producer of solar cells, behind Japan and Germany. Chinese venture capitalists raised billions and along the way created several new billionaires.
One Chinese company, Suntech, is worth about $6 billion, employs 35,000 people and sells 90 percent of its output to Germany.
Phoenix-based First Solar was founded in 1990 when John Walton infused a quarter of a billion dollars into the company. Today the company’s value exceeds $5 billion with long-term contracts to generate almost 800 megawatts to European and Canadian buyers – nearly eight times the total shipped in 2006 from every solar factory in the U.S.
In order to stabilize our climate by mid-century we must globally reduce our dependency on fossil fuels by at least 80 percent.
Innovators, investors and even our children understand that the 19-century fossil-fuel technologies are expensive and outdated; and they are polluting our planet. Clearly, it is time for both Canadian and U.S. federal governments to stop subsidizing fossil fuels, impeding progress with green renewable energy technologies and once and for all impose a carbon emission cap.
Text © by Dr Reese Halter 2012. All rights reserved.
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This article is dedicated to Robert Donner, Jr. (Sep. 25, 1930 — Jan. 13, 2010) my friend, mentor, entrepreneur, sportsman, conservationist and philanthropist.
General Electric and Google – two of the most advanced 21st century companies – have joined forces that will revolutionize North America and elsewhere with state-of-the-art “smart” electricity grids.
General Electric is an industrial conglomerate and a world leader in manufacturing and deploying solar, wind and geothermal energies.
Google is the world’s leading search engine, software and internet company.
General Electric’s engineers calculated that if only 7 percent of the land area of Arizona was covered with GE PV 165 photovoltaic modules, on a sunny day they would generate daily electricity equal to that of the average daily electricity demand for the entire United States.
In 2007 Google became carbon neutral, in part by covering its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., with 6,000 photovoltaic cells and by planting 3,000 pole-mounted solar panels throughout their campus.
Google is also a major investor in at least two solar ventures: eSolar an enhanced thermal solar players and Bright Solar Energy a nanosolar company.
Currently, billions of dollars are invested in the largest solar play in North America located in western Nevada. There are over 104 claims held by major companies that are backed by Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Pacific Gas & Electric, Edison International, Israeli and German solar firms, Google, Silicon Valley start-ups and Chevron covering about 900,000 acres. They will generate about twice what the state of California consumes in electricity in a year (33 gigawatts).
A conservative estimate from this western Mojave solar project predicts that by 2020 it will be generating $50 billion annually.
And that’s important because hundreds of thousands of jobs will be created over the next decade in a bold plan to solarize the following American cities: Seattle, Portland, Berkeley, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Sacramento, San Jose, San Diego, Tucson, Salt Lake City, Denver, San Antonio, Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Minneapolis, St Paul’s, Madison, Milwaukee, Ann Arbor, Pittsburg, New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Orlando.
Oilman T. Boone Pickens has clearly shown that about $700 billion a year is flowing out of the U.S. to purchase imported oil. Picken’s Plan proposes to create comparable energy in the U.S. from one of his subsidiaries by installing thousands of windmills throughout America.
He is asking the U.S. government to bear the cost of $15 billion to install new utility transmission lines.
In fact, an entire new electrical grid is needed to accommodate the western Mojave solar project.
This is where General Electric and Google come in. Both companies believe it is crucial to build a 21st century U.S. electrical system.
They believe that a “smart” electricity grid will empower utilities and end users to manage electricity more efficiently and with significantly lower emissions while America begins changing-over its petroleum-based energy to clean, renewable green energies.
General Electric and Google will develop and deploy renewable energy and plug-in vehicle related technologies. In addition, they will create utility-scale renewable energy with an initial focus on advanced geothermal technology.
State-of-the-art software, controls and services will enable utilities to integrate plug-in vehicles into the conventional grid.
Israel has launched an electric car venture that will spear-head into an oil-free economy. Hundreds of thousands of recharging points are being erected throughout the country. The plan calls for motorists to swap their batteries within a matter of minutes at dedicated stations or recharge them at home or at work. “Oil is the greatest problem of all time – the greatest polluter and promoter of terror. We should get rid of it.” Said Israeli President Shimon Peres.
With a host of exciting and affordable new electric cars coming on the market, it’s clear that at least 25 cities in the U.S. are gearing up to power vehicles that do not rely on fossil fuels.
Despite the current economic downturn there are millions of jobs waiting to be created throughout the Western Hemisphere from clean energy partnerships just like the one between General Electric and Google.
Text © by Dr Reese Halter 2012. All rights reserved.
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With an ever-increasing focus on how we can all address climate disruption and global warming, sports arenas throughout North America are gearing up to go green. The race to blend clean alternative energies with smart design is on. Is Toronto in?
North America’s insatiable demand for energy is creating rising carbon dioxide emissions, which are melting land glaciers at a record rate. In fact, within approximately the next 15 years the ice caps on tropical glaciers in the Andes and Africa will be gone. It is clearer than ever that we must all now do our part and begin to reduce our carbon footprint and the amount of energy we use.
Sports facilities around the world are recognizing the need to make changes and reduce their dependency upon oil, gas and coal-based energies. As a result some very innovative changes are afoot.
The new Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C., will boast a green filtration system designed to filter general debris – one for stadium debris like peanut shells and candy wrappers and one for fertilizers. As a result, the beautiful and historic Anacostia River will be protected from unwanted runoff.
Nashville’s minor-league baseball team, the Sounds are considering carpeting their stadium roof with a low-lying succulent plant called sedum. Sedum roofs both look good and help the environment by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The use of sedum is very popular in Europe – in fact, 10 percent of buildings throughout Germany have sedum roofs.
And green arena innovations continue elsewhere. The Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., has a water-filtration system that collects and re-circulates black and gray water. Four years ago in Miami, Super Bowl XLI put over one million pounds of carbon dioxide into the air, not including air travel. To counteract this, the NFL planted over 3,000 trees throughout Florida to help offset its greenhouse gases.
Recently, the San Francisco Giants teamed up with Pacific Gas & Electric Company to make AT&T Park the first stadium in Major League Baseball to go solar. Now, 590 panels will generate about 120 kilowatts of energy – enough to power more than 20 homes for an entire year. Excess power generated by the panels not used by AT&T Park will be fed back into the power grid to supply homeowner’s with energy.
In addition, AT&T Park will install a new Diamond Vision scoreboard that uses 78% less energy than the ballpark’s original scoreboard. And while San Francisco is not sun-rich, the ocean fog that frequently rolls in and out of the city enables the tallest trees on the face of the Earth – coastal redwoods – to live at their southern extremity.
In contrast, the Toronto-area receives over 2,000 hours of sunshine a year – significantly more than San Francisco. Both the Air Canada Centre and the Rogers Centre could easily be fitted with solar panels that would offset the need to use conventional power from the grid. Both facilities could either sell any excess energy back into the Toronto energy grid or sell their green credits in Chicago on the open market.
In addition, both stadiums could utilize wind turbines in partnership with Toronto Hydro Energy Services to further counterbalance the amount of energy that the respective teams are using. Toronto already has Canada’s first urban wind-turbine, so why not implement two more for both of its world-class sports facilities.
It is vitally important for the Leafs, Raptors and Blue Jays to reduce their carbon footprint and show an ongoing commitment to the environment. All three teams and facilities are respected across Canada and North America and are in a position to take leadership on this issue. Going green at Toronto’s sports arenas will lift the bar and set a challenge for Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver to follow – kick-starting a new wave in the NHL and getting the green ball-bouncing in the NBA.
Text © by Dr Reese Halter 2012. All rights reserved.
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