Solar Power with Salt

Thermal solar power plants uses energy from the sun to heat up water and then run the resulting steam to power turbines. Simple enough, but now Siemens is looking to make that whole process more efficient by using salt.

Solar thermal power plants that produce hotter steam can capture more solar energy. That’s why Siemens is exploring an upgrade for solar thermal technology to push its temperature limit 160 °C higher than current designs. The idea is to expand the use of molten salts, which many plants already use to store extra heat. If the idea proves viable, it will boost the plants’ steam temperature up to 540 °C—the maximum temperature that steam turbines can take.

Siemens’s new solar thermal plant design, like all large solar thermal power plants now operating, captures solar heat via trough-shaped rows of parabolic mirrors that focus sunlight on steel collector tubes. The design’s Achilles’ heel is the synthetic oil that flows through the tubes and conveys captured heat to the plants’ centralized generators: the synthetic oil breaks down above 390 °C, capping the plants’ design temperature.

Startups such as BrightSource, eSolar, and SolarReserve propose to evade synthetic oil’s temperature cap by building so-called power tower plants, which use fields of mirrors to focus sunlight on a central tower. But Siemens hopes to upgrade the trough design, swapping in heat-stable molten salt to collect heat from the troughs. The resulting design should not only be more efficient than today’s existing trough-based plants, but also cheaper to build. “A logical next step is to just replace the oil with salt,” says Peter Mürau, Siemens’s molten salt technology program manager.

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Iceland Thinking of Electrifying Europe

Iceland uses sustainable geothermal energy production to provide power and hot water to its people and now they are thinking of exporting surplus power to Europe. They are wrapping up their research into the feasibility of running so much electricity underwater to Europe and if it’s completed even more people can benefit from renewable energy.

Plus, just imagine how rich Iceland can become from supplying cheap renewable energy to the rest of Europe.

The project aims for the exportation of some five terawatt-hours (or five billion kilowatt-hours) each year, Jonsdottir said.
At current power prices in Europe, that corresponds to between 250 and 320 million euros ($350-448 million) in exports annually, and is enough to cover the average annual consumption of 1.25 million European households.
“The idea is to meet demand during peak hours in Europe, as well as some base load,” Jonsdottir said, refusing to estimate how much the project might cost to implement.
Landsvirkjun, which is state-owned, produces about 75 percent of all electricity in Iceland

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Plants Eat Pollution

We all know that plants are really good at cleaning the air and that’s absolutely a good thing. Nowadays more and more research is looking at using plants to clean more than just the air. Recently, a researcher in Ontario has used plants to clean up pollutants in a brown field site.

“Traditionally, we dig up the contamination and take it to a hazardous-waste dumpsite or incineration facility, but then the soil is lost,” she says. “But, in using phytoextraction … after we pull all the contaminants out, you’ve still got this natural resource of the soil itself.”

The composted material may still need to be disposed of as hazardous waste, but the volume of contaminated matter has been greatly reduced, says Dr. Zeeb.

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Thanks Mike!

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Sustainable Haircuts

Sustainability is great and even local and small business can benefit from shifting the attitude to a more planet-friendly one. In Toronto a hair salon has started a bunch of sustainability practices at the benefits are grand!

Over the last 17 years or so, Phillips has turned the place into something of an eco-hub, reducing the business’s electricity consumption by more than 50 percent and purging their hair and beauty product of what he considers to be environmentally harmful and personally toxic ingredients. A member of the Windshare Cooperative (co-owners of the Exhibition Place Wind Turbine with Toronto Hydro Energy Services) and the Toronto Environmental Alliance, Phillips has earned several awards for his efforts, including most recently, a Green Circle Award for Environmental Stewardship at the Mirror Awards honouring Canadian hairdressers, stylists, salons and spas. In an industry known for excess, glitzy surfaces and throw-away ideas, Phillips has tried to create a green heart at its core.

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Sustainable Bus Shelter

Waiting for the bus is not the most exciting thing to do in the world, but it is a very necessary one. (And let’s face it waiting for a bus and reading a book is better than starring at a license plate in front of you during a traffic jam.) Designer Tiffany Roddis has come up with a bus shelter that is better than most and is also good for the environment.
Bus shelter

The stylish new eco friendly bus stop will attract new tourists and new custom to lower pollution from existing car owners. The frustration of late buses and complicated timetables can now be reassured by the new colour coded main head-stream. It’s easy-read route finder can accommodate everyone, comforting users that they can arrive to work, school or general destinations on-time by guaranteed GPS signals.

Here’s Tiffany’s project page.

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