Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Is Thorium the Biggest Energy Breakthrough Since Fire?

For the past several months, a friend of mine has been telling me about the potentially game-changing implications of an obscure (at least to me) metal named Thorium after the Norse god of thunder, Thor.

It seems like he is not the only person who believes thorium, a naturally-occurring, slightly radioactive metal discovered in 1828 by the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius, could provide the world with an ultra-safe, ultra-cheap source of nuclear power.

Last week, scores of thorium boosters gathered in the United Kingdom to launch a new advocacy organization, the Weinberg Foundation, which plans to push the promise of thorium nuclear energy into the mainstream political discussion of clean energy and climate change. The message they’re sending is that thorium is the anti-dote to the world’s most pressing energy and environmental challenges.

So what is the big deal about thorium? In 2006, writing in the magazine Cosmos, Tim Dean summarized perhaps the most optimistic scenario for what a Thorium-powered nuclear world would be like:

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Britain must adapt to 'inevitable' climate change, warns minister

Britons must radically change the way they live and work to adapt to being "stuck with unavoidable climate change" the Government will caution this week, as it unveils a dramatic vision of how society will be altered by floods, droughts and rising temperatures.

The coalition will signal a major switch towards adapting to the impact of existing climate change, away from Labour's heavy emphasis on cutting carbon emissions to reverse global temperature rises. Caroline Spelman, the Tory Secretary of State for the Environment, will use her first major speech on climate change since taking office to admit that the inevitable severe weather conditions will present a "survival-of-the- fittest scenario", with only those who have planned ahead able to thrive. Adapting to climate change will be "at the heart of our agenda", she is expected to say.

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Cleantech investments skyrocket to $7 billion worldwide

Investment in cleantech companies surged in 2006 from $2.7 billion to $7.1 billion, a 167% jump, reports GreenBiz.com.

Investment in biofuels increased more than four times, from $647 million in 2005 to $2.8 billion in 2006. Averge deal size seems to be increasing, as the number of deals only increased 31% to 354.

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NSW Business cashing in on energy efficiency

THE state’s small- and medium-sized businesses are reaping the benefits of government energy efficiency programs, saving a combined $70 million in power costs for about $8 million in government subsidies in the past two years, new data shows. So far, 345 dairies have participated in energy-efficiency programs in NSW and some have saved as much as 15 per cent on the cost of refrigerating milk.

In the past year, 247 butchers have saved up to 8 per cent, or roughly $1240 a year, on energy costs. And 2393 cafes and restaurants have improved their energy performance by up to 13 per cent, or $1362 a year. One winery, Tamburlaine in the Hunter Valley, was able to cut its energy use by three-quarters and save $110,000 a year.

The changes range from simple measures such as switching light bulbs to remote-controlled cooling and heating, or changing voltage and fan speeds. ”In terms of environmental benefits, it reduces costs for business, it reduces demand for electricity, it reduces carbon emissions,” said the NSW Environment Minister, Robyn Parker.

Country areas stand out for the highest number of businesses who are participating, with only North Sydney, Sydney and Marrickville making it into the top 10 regions. Most of the programs were initiated under the previous state government and some face funding pressure under the new government.

The current government opposes the federal government’s carbon pricing plan, which includes a substantial energy-efficiency component, but Ms Parker said NSW would work with its federal counterpart where necessary.

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Economic developments across SA, Africa and the world

CAPE TOWN COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS COULD IMPROVE EFFICIENCIES – Roughly one in three tons of carbon produced by Cape Town’s energy use is generated by commercial buildings, according to Cape Town Energy Efficiency Forum for Commercial Buildings coordinator Sarah Rushmere. While this is equivalent to the global value for buildings, the high carbon cost means there is still much to be done in improving the efficiencies of Cape Town’s office blocks and other commercial buildings.

Speaking at a session of the Cape Town Energy Efficiency Forum on Green Leasing, Rushmere says, while many large companies, such as Vodacom, MTN and BMW, have recently embarked on projects to improve the energy efficiency of their offices, these types of projects are not typical of the majority of South Africa’s commercial property space, which is why the concept of green leasing is important.

“The issue here is that these are owner-occupied buildings and the vast majority of our existing building stock is multiple-tenanted commercial buildings, where the owner has got many tenants to deal with. The [energy efficient] headline news is not coming from multiple tenanted buildings that are retrofitted, it is mostly coming from new builds and refurbishments of owner-occupied buildings,” says Rushmere.

The Cape Town Energy Efficiency Forum is run by the City of Cape Town, Eskom and the South African Property Owners Association and is directed at owners and managers of commercial buildings and related stakeholders. The forum provides practical case studies and addresses how to overcome barriers to energy efficiency. “I think this is the first collaborative forum about green leasing in this country. This is a pioneering session,” Rushmere says.

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Cool metal roofing, a hot idea

Despite years of trying to raise awareness about energy conservation, less than half of the homes in the United States are well insulated, with properly sealed ductwork. The Energy Star program reports the average U.S. household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills, with nearly half going to heating and cooling costs. The annual costs continue to rise. Metal roofing is a new tool in the energy wars, because of its ability to reduce both cooling and heating energy usage. Unlike insulation, which some homeowners skip, every home needs a roof.

Driven to reduce energy costs and make long-term improvements to their homes, more homeowners than ever are installing durable and environmentally friendly metal roofing systems. According to new statistics from McGraw-Hill Construction Research and Analytics®, the number of homes with metal roofs has more than tripled over the past decade, moving metal from 3% of the overall U.S. market to 10%.

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Solar Farming Potential in India

The newest crop in India could be electricity from the sun. "Solar Farming" can help change India's energy economy to clean and efficient renewable energy during the day when it is needed the most, create millions of jobs, and could help India to energy independence and national security.

Imagine a crop that can be harvested daily on the most barren desert and arid land, with no fertilizer or tillage, and that produces no harmful emissions. Imagine an energy source so bountiful that it can provide many times more energy than we could ever expect to need or use. Imagine that an hour's worth of sunlight bathing the planet holds far more energy than humans worldwide could consume in a year. You don't have to imagine it -- it's real and it's here. Solar energy is an abundant enormous resource that is readily available to all countries throughout the world, and all the space above the earth. It is clean, no waste comes from it, and it's "free."

This "free" source of electricity can be used to supply the energy needs of homes, farms and businesses. Through the use of Photovoltaic (PV), Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) or Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), sunlight is converted into electricity that can provide power to businesses, homes, and drive motors. Solar power is becoming recognized as an important element in the energy supply planning and customer energy management of utilities worldwide.

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