13 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for May 6: Refrigerated by sunlight; Floating deepwater turbines show promise
Although it sounds like a contradiction in terms, using the power of the sun for refrigeration is proving to be an original energy concept. In Tunisia and Morocco, Fraunhofer research scientists are using solar energy to keep perishable foodstuffs such as milk, wine and fruit fresh.
“Refrigerated by sunlight” — we could well see an ecostatement like this printed on food packaging in the years ahead. Solar energy is already being used to power air-conditioning systems in buildings, but now researchers also want to refrigerate fruit and other perishable foodstuffs using energy from the sun. Scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg are demonstrating that this is feasible in the Mediterranean region using the examples of a winery in Tunisia and a dairy in Morocco. In the MEDISCO project (short for MEDiterranean food and agro Industry applications of Solar COoling technologies) solar plants for refrigerating milk and wine have been installed in cooperation with universities, energy agencies and European companies. The project funded by the European Commission is run by the Polytechnic University of Milan.
“Our method is ideal for countries which have many days of sunshine and in remote areas where there are no conventional means of refrigeration owing to a lack of water and non-existent or unreliable energy sources. It is environmentally friendly and reduces the use of expensive electricity for conventional refrigerators to a minimum,” states Dr. Tomas Nº±ez, scientist at the ISE, listing the system’s advantages. “Refrigeration is always available when the sun shines, which means that it is produced at the times when demand is at its highest.”
As deepwater oil drilling wrestles with a dramatic spill in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists are working to bring safe, reliable, around-the-clock power to market from deepwater wind turbines.
The federal government approved the first U.S. offshore wind project last week, the 130-turbine Cape Wind farm. That project, consisting of turbines planted on the seabed in shallow water off Massachusetts’ scenic Cape Cod, has spent years mired in controversy that has focused largely on aesthetics.
But a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is exploring the physics and engineering that could let turbines float on platforms 20 miles off the coast, where the curvature of the Earth would hide them from shore views.
The work, supported by a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, began last summer and is focused on developing computer modeling tools and water tank studies to let researchers test how wave and wind forces would affect deepwater turbines.
“Deepwater wind is the next frontier,” said David Olinger, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at WPI and a principal investigator on the project. Farther offshore, the wind becomes more reliable than on land, where it often blows for just part of the day, he explained, so turbines could spin as much as 80 percent of the time. Offshore winds are also often stronger.
The turbines the team is looking at are generally 5-megawatt systems, more than half again the size of typical land-based turbines used today and big enough to power about 500,000 typical homes. The turbine assemblies would be floated in water more than 200 feet deep.
Olinger said his project is doing “fairly fundamental work” to quantify how a wind platform will respond to particular wave and wind patterns. It is developing computer models that will predict how systems will respond to waves of a certain frequency and size, and will test those predictions using scale models at a nearby water flume test facility.
Despite promises that the 2008 farm bill would direct federal money toward struggling small farms rather than the wealthiest farmers, the proportion of payments going to those farmers was virtually unchanged last year, according to a new report based on Freedom of Information Act requests to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The database of farm payments, released today by the Environmental Working Group, shows that 10 percent of farmers received 62 percent of federal farm payments last year, the same percentage as in the previous two years.
“They are well dug in,” said Ken Cook, president of the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization. “They have a strong interest in defending the status quo.”
House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and former Senate Agriculture Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the two head negotiators of the farm bill, declined to comment through their spokesmen. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Harkin’s successor, said only that the bill “made great strides to improving farm programs.”
China’s premier Wen Jiabao delivered a big speech on Wednesday urging all levels of government to work with an ‘iron hand’ to improve energy efficiency. This came after official data showed the country’s energy intensity actually increased in the first quarter of the year “” by 3.2 per cent “” despite its pledge to reduce energy intensity by 20 per cent between 2006 and 2010.
China’s new ranking as the biggest greenhouse gas emitter, and its reluctance to commit to binding carbon emissions targets, make its ability to meet its own energy targets extremely important. And so far, the showing is not good “” despite the praise heaped on China in the lead up to Copenhagen.
According to a China Daily article, Wen said in March that country’s energy fell by 14.38 per cent between 2005 and 2009. If they have risen already this year, that makes achieving the target by the end of this year look rather challenging. So, Wen reportedly announced new measures on Wednesday.
China, the world’s fastest-growing major economy, used 3.2 percent more energy per unit of gross domestic product in the first quarter, adding to pressure to cut consumption for the rest of 2010, Premier Wen Jiabao said.
“Rapid growth” in industries including power generation, steel, nonferrous metals, construction materials, petroleum and chemicals increased China’s consumption of energy, Wen said in a statement published on the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology’s website today.
China cut energy use per unit of GDP by 14.38 percent between 2006 and 2009, and plans to reduce consumption by 20 percent in the five years to 2010. The economy expanded 11.9 percent in the first quarter, the fastest pace in almost three years, boosting consumption of electricity, oil and coal.
The first-quarter growth in energy use “greatly increases the pressure on the last three quarters,” Wen said. The government wants industries including steel, cement and coal to reduce overcapacity and cut pollution, the State Council, or Cabinet, said yesterday.