Electric Power from Rivers Meeting Oceans

ocean shore

Renewable energy comes in many forms with new innovative approaches being discovered very so often. A more recent approach to carbon neutral renewable energy can be found where two bodies of water meet. In an innovative approach, scientists have found a way to create electricity from locations where fresh water bodies (usually rivers) meet salty ocean water. The process has been proven to work; however, it requires a large quantity of water to make it profitable. The next phase will be to try out the process at scale and to ensure there are no negative impacts on the local ecosystem.

There are several ways to generate power from that mixing. And a couple of blue energy power plants have been built. But their high cost has prevented widespread adoption. All blue energy approaches rely on the fact that salts are composed of ions, or chemicals that harbor a positive or negative charge. In solids, the positive and negative charges attract one another, binding the ions together. (Table salt, for example, is a compound made from positively charged sodium ions bound to negatively charged chloride ions.) In water, these ions detach and can move independently.

By pumping the positive ions—like sodium or potassium—to the other side of a semipermeable membrane, researchers can create two pools of water: one with a positive charge, and one with a negative charge. If they then dunk electrodes in the pools and connect them with a wire, electrons will flow from the negatively charged to the positively charged side, generating electricity.

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Scotland Banned Fraking, Rest of UK to Follow

industry

Fraking is really bad for all of us, it’s the process of using water to force dirty oil out of the ground. This practice destabilizes the ground causing earthquakes and the end result is more wasteful oil ultimately being consumed, which in turn, produces waste that gets released into the atmosphere. There’s nothing good about fraking. Scotland banned fraking in its territory last month and now it looks like the United Kingdom as a whole is on track to ban it too. With any luck the country will divert subsidies to the finite petroleum industry to the infinite renewable energy sector.

Environmentalists argue that the process contaminates water supplies, hurts wildlife, causes earthquakes and contributes to global climate change.

It is banned in many countries, including France and Germany, and the United Kingdom’s other constituent members — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — are opposed to it.

Public mistrust of shale gas extraction is rising sharply.

According to the National Audit Office, opposition among Britons has risen to 40 percent from 21 percent since 2013.

“Public concern has centred on the risks to the environment and public health, from fracking-induced earthquakes, and the adequacy of the environmental regulations in place,” it said.

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Toronto’s Food Waste Powers its Garbage Trucks

fruit store

Toronto’s garbage trucks are being fuelled by the very thing they are picking up on their routes. The trucks pick up food waste (in a separate bin from recycling and trash) and transport them to a holding facility where the food further decomposes.

Since 2015, Toronto has been working to harness the biogas emitted from organic waste. After partnering with Enbridge to build a processing facility on the Dufferin site, biogas is now ready to fuel the majority of Toronto’s collection trucks. It’s one of the first cities in North America to do this.

The switch to biogas or renewable natural gas (RNG), will reduce the city’s carbon footprint, Khan says. The trucks that pick up your waste will drop it off at the plant and then go to a station where they will be fuelled with the biogas.

“It’s one of the most significant actions the city can take… because we’re not using resources to withdraw and clean fossil fuels, we’re using the waste that’s already produced,” said Khan.

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Solar and Wind Outgrow Subsidies

solar
Renewable energy systems used to need subsidies to be competitive with the even more subsidized fossil fuel energy systems. Today, despite the fact that globally USD$5.2 trillion was spent on fossil fuel subsidies in one year, non-subsidized solar and wind are cheaper than fossil fuels. This is really impressive given the relatively small size of renewables being used over the last decade. With more solar and wind installations being built the economics of renewable energy is only getting better.

Perhaps nowhere is the push toward subsidy-free clean energy clearer than on arid expanses of Southern Europe. About 750 megawatts of subsidy-free clean-energy projects are expected to connect to the grid in 2019 alone, across Spain, Italy, Portugal and elsewhere — enough to power about 333,000 households, according to Pietro Radoia, an analyst at BNEF.

“The cheapest way of producing electricity in Spain is the sun,” Jose Dominguez Abascal, the nation’s secretary of state for energy, said last year.

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Solar Panels Help Crops Grow

Solar panels on grass
Solar energy is the future and it keeps getting better. Not only are renewables cheaper than destructive gas and coal energy they also have other positive effects. Recently it’s been discovered that solar fields can be used as a really good place to grow crops. This is counterintuitive as the solar panels block the sun which plants typically love and to service the panels there needs to be a pathway where crops would thrive.

However, by planting shade-tolerant plants beneath the panels it means workers can still do their job and the plants can do theirs. The plants do well in the shade thanks to the ambient light and the increased humidity from the panels themselves. Neat!

The researchers see potential here (and in similar “agrivoltaics” experiments elsewhere) that is worth investigating and optimizing. Solar panel installations may not be compatible with the machinery used to harvest many crops, and boosting the panels higher off the ground costs extra. But there are configurations for certain crops in certain areas that can make a lot of sense. Farmers could save water, make money from a solar lease, and might even find that workers are much more comfortable and safe working under some shade—all while allowing solar arrays to expand in those areas without competing for land with agriculture.

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