Power

Will Huge Batteries Save Us From Power Blackouts?

Publication: National Geographic   Date: April 29, 2015   View Article

Glacier, Washington, is the final stop for coffee and treats on the Mt. Baker Highway, which ends at a ski area holding the world record for most snowfall in a season. The small town in the woods might seem an unlikely spot for a $9.6 million warehouse to store excess energy, but it might prove the perfect testing ground.

The area’s winter storms routinely knock out power to Glacier, home to about 250 residents year-round and more than 1,000 on busy weekends. Come 2016, its outages should be less frequent thanks to a shipping container humming with lithium-ion batteries hooked up to a substation that will provide up to 18 hours of backup electricity.

The two-megawatt system will allow Puget Sound Energy to study broader applications for grid-scale energy storage such as using it to provide power during peak-hour demand and to maintain minute-by-minute grid balance.

Leaky Fukushima nuclear plant raises seafood poisoning concerns

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 20, 2013   View Article

The 300 tons of radioactive water leaked to date from a storage tank at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan is raising new concerns about the safety of seafood from the region, according to scientists.

Highly contaminated water from the newly reported leak is seeping into the ground, officials with Tokyo Electric Power Company told reporters Tuesday. They do not believe the water has reached the ocean, given the distance of the tank from the harbor. Still, it is likely only a matter of time before it does, said William Burness, an oceanographer at Florida State University, who studies environmental radioactivity.

The concern is that the radioactive water leaking from the storage tanks will eventually end up in the ocean and contaminate the marine environment, in particular fish that people eat, Burnett told NBC News.

Catastrophic power outages on the rise, but new tech helps keep lights on

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 2, 2013   View Article

Last year, nearly a tenth of the world’s population — 620 million people — lost power at once. The cause? Two simultaneous failures on India’s enormous electric grid.

While these catastrophes are a symptom of infrastructure investment lagging behind rapid urbanization and modernization, technology can help: A new computer algorithm could lower the chances of such massive blackouts from recurring.

Seeking gamers: Document power plants, fight climate change

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 12, 2013   View Article

Sometimes, drinking a few beers after class can save the planet. A just-launched online “game” dreamed up during one such beer-drinking session aims to do that by encouraging people around the world to supply much needed data about the world’s power plants that burn fossil fuels.

While the general whereabouts of these plants is known, in much of the world details are fuzzy on the kind of fuel they burn and how much electricity they produce, explained Kevin Gurney, a senior sustainability scientist at Arizona State University.

Material generates power from water vapor

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 10, 2013   View Article

When scientist Mingming Ma interlocked two different polymers in hopes of creating a new type of electrode to stimulate atrophied muscles, he made something more powerful: an artificial muscle, or actuator, that can generate electricity by drawing on water vapor.

“The first time I synthesized this material, I put the film on my hand and I found it was just moving by itself,” the chemical engineer at MIT’s David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research told NBC News. “That was very surprising, so I decided to find out why.”

Tornado generator may create the energy of a coal-fired power plant

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 3, 2013   View Article

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel’s foundation recently invested $300,000 in a start-up company that aims to harness energy from tornadoes. A single twister-generator machine could produce as much energy as a coal-fired power plant without the downside of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Atmospheric Vortex Engine is the brainchild of Louis Michaud, a Canadian engineer who first started talking about the concept in the early 2000s. He’s successfully proven it works with 13-foot diameter version.

Solar trucks provide electricity in Sandy’s wake

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 16, 2012   View Article

In the Sandy-ravaged Rockaway Beach neighborhood of New York, a 10-year-old truck outfitted with 256-square feet of solar panels is a working example of how cities can prepare for superstorms of the future.

The truck, Rolling Sunlight, is one of several mobile solar generators deployed in the region as part of the Solar Sandy coalition of solar companies and nonprofits that have banded together to provide residents and relief workers with electricity.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach