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Alternative Energy

  • Another Fukushima Casualty - Japan's Fast Breeder Reactor Program

    The 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that effectively destroyed Tokyo Electric Power Company’s six-reactor Fukushima Daichi complex have claimed another victim, Japan’s fast breeder reactor program. Fukushima’s effect on Japan’s atomic energy program has not had the consequences of a nuclear blast, but more the relentless drip of acid rain, slowly eroding public confidence in the country’s nuclear power industry, which last month saw 49 of the country’s 54 nuclear power plant (NPP) reactors idled. The figure is hardly insignificant, as the nuclear power plants (NPPS) collectively generated more than 47,000 megawatts, nearly 30 percent of the country’s electrical needs. Now…

  • Which Alternative Energies will Lead us into the Future?

    When I first approached the topic of societal energy in 2004, I became aware for the first time that our energy future was not in the bag, and proceeded to explore alternative after alternative to judge the viability and potential pitfalls of various options. I have retraced my steps in Do the Math posts, exposing the scales at which different energy sources might contribute, and the practical complexities involved. My spooky campfire version of the story, a la Tolkien: The Way is Shut. Alright, I’m overstating things a bit. The good news is that there do exist energy flows and…

  • The Darker Reality of India‚Äôs Nuclear Power Goals

    India is betting heavily on nuclear power to meet its surging energy needs. While India currently has six nuclear power plants (NPPs) with 20 reactors generating 4,780 megawatts, seven other reactors are under construction and are expected to generate an additional 5,300 megawatts.  This current rate of nuclear power generation pales into insignificance with New Delhi’s future plans, as on 22 February Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told a seminar at the India International Nuclear Symposium, "India plans to have a total installed nuclear capacity of 63,000 megawatts by the year 2032, using both indigenous technology and imported reactors. Nuclear technology…

  • Norway Hopes to Develop Thorium Nuclear Power

    Norway holds a resource of 170,000 tonnes of thorium, which amounts to 15% of the world’s total of 1.2 million tonnes. There is far more thorium than that within the earth’s crust all told, averaging 8 ppm compared with around 2.8 ppm for uranium, but the above figures refer to richer ores, most commonly monazite sand which contains up to 12% of thorium. There is some opinion that thorium nuclear power might be a better environmental/energy-strategy for Norway than relying on carbon-capture which many consider to be uneconomic. However, the matter of thorium reactors is not straightforward. Professor Egil Lillestol…

  • Amid Rising Global Interest in Renewable Energy, Tidal Power to Surge?

    Amid rising global concerns following Japan’s disastrous 11 March 2011 nuclear catastrophe at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daichi nuclear complex and surging oil prices, renewable energy is receiving increased attention from investors. The leading candidates are solar and wind energy, but both have problems beyond significant investment costs and the fact that they have yet to generate power at competitive rates with more traditional power sources such as oil, coal and natural gas. Beyond issues of power storage, a further concern is the fickle nature of their sources – the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind is hardly a constant factor.…

  • Germany's Rising Cost of Going Green

    On 30 May 2011, in the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster two months earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced an "energy revolution" and that Germany would close all of its 19 nuclear power plants (NPPs) between 2015 and 2022, which produce about 28 percent of the country's electricity. The shortfall was to be made up with an increased emphasis on renewable energy sources. In the wake of Germany’s decision, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, Italy, and many other nations declared, in one way or another, their intent to pursue a safer alternative. As of January 2012, besides Germany’s 19 NPPs, 138 civilian…

  • Green Energy is About Green Backs

    While most major economies agree that some form of alternative and renewable resources are needed as part of the emerging energy mix, embracing frontier areas like wave arrays might be more about changing the way decision-makers think about energy than simply about the saving the environment. That's how Richard Yemm, founder of Scottish company Pelamis Wave Power, sees it anyhow. He says efforts underway in Europe aren't just about protecting the environment, they're about new ways to provide energy that make economic sense. He's not, after all, just talking about climate change when he talks about going green. "The second industrial…

  • Life After Oil - A Look at the Latest Clean Technology Developments

    Gasoline prices in the U.S. are off on another tear. The national average just went by $3.57 for regular and due to a little problem of several major refineries that serve the U.S.'s East Coast shutting down, here in Northern Virginia we are running 20 to 25 cents a gallon higher than normal. The wisest of the prognosticators say we should seeing circa $4+ a gallon by late spring so the Washington area will likely be seeing circa $4.50. In case you missed it, they are already getting $5 for regular down by the Kennedy Centre. Somebody in Congress is…

  • Hydrogen Fuel Cells: Not Long to Wait Now

    Fuel cells are one of those technologies we have covered before, usually citing some manufacturer who is fan-faring a new technology purported to be game-changing for the cost structure of the hydrogen fuel cell market. So far, fuel cells are used predominantly in specialist applications such as submarines and space vehicles, or in remote areas where power requirements are low yet refuelling is expensive or difficult — or both. The breakthrough application would be an economically viable application in automobiles, but according to the FT, carmakers have sunk large amounts of money into hydrogen research programs with little to show…

  • DOE no Longer Able to Fund Clean Technology Ventures after Budget Cuts

    The US Department of Energy's (DOE) days as a financier of clean technologies are over thanks to the Solyndra backlash, but budget cuts would have prevented the department from functioning in that role anyway, according to NRG Energy's chief executive. "It was the headline for a good part of the year in 2011," David Crane, president and CEO of power generator NRG Energy, said of the Solyndra situation at the Jefferies 2012 Global Clean Technology Conference in New York on Wednesday. "In all likelihood it will be a headline into a good part of the year in 2012. "While I…