May 23 news: Japan “plans solar panels for all new buildings”; Fukushima “worse than Chernobyl” for oceans

Tiny federal program will save enough water to supply a city

Japan ‘plans solar panels for all new buildings’

Japan is considering a plan that would make it compulsory for all new buildings and houses to come fitted with solar panels by 2030, a business daily said Sunday.

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The plan, expected to be unveiled at the upcoming G8 Summit in France, aims to show Japan’s resolve to encourage technological innovation and promote the wider use of renewable energy, the Nikkei daily said.

Japan has reeled from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and the nuclear crisis they triggered as it battles to stabilise the crippled Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plant.

On Thursday, the first day of the two-day summit in Deauville, France, Prime Minister Naoto Kan is expected to announce Japan’s intention to continue operating nuclear plants after confirming their safety, the Nikkei said without citing sources.

But he is also expected to unveil a plan to step up efforts to push renewable energy and energy conservation.

Kan believes that the installation of solar panels would help Japan realise such goals, the Nikkei said.

He hopes that technological innovation will drastically bring down costs of solar power generation and thereby make the use of renewable energy more widespread, it said.

Fukushima “Worse Than Chernobyl” When It Comes To Oceans

The disaster in Fukushima still has Japan and the rest of the world reeling at the dangers of nuclear power plants. But experts believe that it’s the oceans that could bear the brunt of fallout from this most recent power plant failure. In fact, one expert estimates that when it comes to the oceans, Fukushima could be worse than Chernobyl.

The National Science Foundation reports, “Japanese officials recently raised the severity of the nuclear power plant incident to level 7, the highest level on the international scale and comparable only to the Chernobyl incident 25 years ago. Radionuclides in seawater have been reported from the Fukushima plant’s discharge canals, from coastal waters five to ten kilometers south of the plant, and from 30 kilometers offshore.”

Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Henrieta Dulaiova, chemical oceanographer at University of Hawaii have each been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences to study the issue further, looking in to concentrations of radionuclides in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Their work will provide insight into just how much radiation our oceans are bearing from the disaster and what that might mean for the environment.

How Does U.S. Wind Keep Growing? It’s the Big Question for WindPower

Without the support wind gets in Asia and Europe, what is this industry’s secret? The wind industry will mull the question at WindPower next week.

The nation’s biggest wind energy conclave opens Sunday in Anaheim. The last time wind threw its big party in California was 2007. There were 5,000 attendees, said Peter L. Kelley, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Vice President for Public Affairs. The cumulative U.S. installed wind capacity that year, Kelley added, was 17 gigawatts.

A tempestuous four years later, the U.S. has a cumulative installed wind power capacity of over 41 gigawatts, wind provides 2.3 percent of the nation’s electricity and more than 20,000 people are expected in Anaheim.

The secret to wind’s growth can be found in another number Kelley emphasized: U.S. wind energy was picked to provide 35 percent of new U.S. power capacity over the four-year period after 2007, second only to natural gas. In other words, the people who keep the lights on decided that new wind — not new nuclear, not new coal — was the right buy.

And, Kelley pointed out, though shale gas deposits are making natural gas cheap right now, “nobody expects that to last, not even the people in the natural gas industry.” Plans for liquid natural gas (LNG) exports, compressed natural gas (CNG) as a heavy transport fuel, and problems with hydrofracking in the shale all suggest supply will be challenged by demand, driving prices higher.

W.H. ditches letter grades for fuel economy

The Obama administration is nixing a plan to give automobiles letter grades based on their fuel efficiency after the proposal came under attack from the auto industry, sources familiar with the agency’s decision told POLITICO.

EPA and the Transportation Department are expected to unveil their new design for fuel economy stickers next week, and it won’t involve assigning prominent letter grades “A” through “D” “” one option the administration was considering, the sources said.

Last August, the agencies proposed two alternative designs for window stickers aimed at helping consumers compare vehicles’ fuel economy. In addition to the letter grade, the administration proposed an alternative label without grades that includes prominent estimates of miles per gallon and annual fuel costs. (The alternative designs are available here.)

The auto industry blasted the letter grade proposal, and Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers CEO Dave McCurdy told several news outlets in response to the proposal, “The proposed letter grade falls short because it is imbued with schoolyard memories of passing and failing.”

Wade Newton, a spokesman for the auto group, said Friday that while he hasn’t yet seen the final rule, “We’d welcome a decision to go with the more traditional mpg labels that consumers are already familiar with.”

“The addition of a large, brightly colored letter grade may confuse the public about what is being graded, and it risks alienating the consumer who has a valid need for a vehicle that does not achieve an ‘A’ for GHG emissions,” he added.

Environmental groups are dismayed that the administration has apparently opted against the letter grades, arguing that those stickers made it easier for consumers to pick the greener option.

Military Sets its Sights on Sustainability

For all their calamitous outcomes, wars “” and the military which wages them “” have long been a source of radical new technological developments. Navies throughout history, for example, have been early adopters of new technologies and were the driving force in the transition from sail power to coal in the 19th century, and from oil to nuclear power in the post-war era.

But the military’s adoption of new technology had its greatest and most enduring impact in 1912 when Winston Churchill, then the UK’s First Lord of the Admirality, ordered the British Royal Navy to switch its fuel source from coal to oil in its new battleships. This was not only a defining moment in the history of warfare but it also led to the development of the oilfields of the Persian Gulf and the growth of the Anglo-Persain oil company, an antecedent of the modern-day BP, and put the world on a path towards growing oil dependency that has defined energy economics in recent decades.

Fast-forward 100 years and the military is again looking to switch energy sources in a shift away from hydrocarbon dependence and with a nod on renewables playing an increasingly important role. And, as with Churchill’s decision, the move is likely to have repercussions well beyond the battlefield.

Tiny Federal Program Will Save Enough Water to Supply a City

The U.S. Department of the Interior has just announced $24 million in funding for new water conservation projects in western states, some of which will also save energy, too. Proving once again that a little goes a long way, the funds will be split among 54 separate projects, and when you put them all together it adds up to more than 100,000 acre-feet per year. That’s enough to provide water for about 400,000 people. To put that into perspective, the population of mid-sized cities like Tulsa, Cleveland and Miami is a little under 400,000. As a group, the projects demonstrate that an infinitesimal amount of federal funding (compared to say, the Iraq war) can have a significant impact on the ability of the U.S. to sustain future growth — a far different approach than the one currently being advocated by certain penny wise, pound foolish legislators at both the state and federal levels.

WaterSMART Projects

The new grants are part of the Interior Department’s WaterSMART program, established in February 2010. The initiative was designed to pull together the Department’s various resources, lead by the Bureau of Reclamation, to help states deal with “drought, climate change, growing populations, energy demands and basic environmental needs [that] are stressing our finite water and energy supplies,” according to the department’s press release. Specifically, the focus is on projects that involve energy efficiency and alternative energy.

Water Conservation: Low Tech, High Tech

Many of the projects involve relatively inexpensive improvements that use conventional technology. One example is an irrigation company in Washington State, which will simply replace open ditches with pipes. By preventing seepage loss, the savings will amount to about 7,850 acre-feet of water, along with saving 4.3 million kilowatt hours of electricity due to reduced demand on pumped water. As an example of the high tech approach, an irrigation district in California will install use online GIS to save an estimated 11,500 acre-feet annually.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has just announced $24 million in funding for new water conservation projects in western states, some of which will also save energy, too. Proving once again that a little goes a long way, the funds will be split among 54 separate projects, and when you put them all together it adds up to more than 100,000 acre-feet per year. That’s enough to provide water for about 400,000 people. To put that into perspective, the population of mid-sized cities like Tulsa, Cleveland and Miami is a little under 400,000. As a group, the projects demonstrate that an infinitesimal amount of federal funding (compared to say, the Iraq war) can have a significant impact on the ability of the U.S. to sustain future growth — a far different approach than the one currently being advocated by certain penny wise, pound foolish legislators at both the state and federal levels.

WaterSMART Projects

The new grants are part of the Interior Department’s WaterSMART program, established in February 2010. The initiative was designed to pull together the Department’s various resources, lead by the Bureau of Reclamation, to help states deal with “drought, climate change, growing populations, energy demands and basic environmental needs [that] are stressing our finite water and energy supplies,” according to the department’s press release. Specifically, the focus is on projects that involve energy efficiency and alternative energy.

Water Conservation: Low Tech, High Tech

Many of the projects involve relatively inexpensive improvements that use conventional technology. One example is an irrigation company in Washington State, which will simply replace open ditches with pipes. By preventing seepage loss, the savings will amount to about 7,850 acre-feet of water, along with saving 4.3 million kilowatt hours of electricity due to reduced demand on pumped water. As an example of the high tech approach, an irrigation district in California will install use online GIS to save an estimated 11,500 acre-feet annually.

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/12tlY)

The U.S. Department of the Interior has just announced $24 million in funding for new water conservation projects in western states, some of which will also save energy, too. Proving once again that a little goes a long way, the funds will be split among 54 separate projects, and when you put them all together it adds up to more than 100,000 acre-feet per year. That’s enough to provide water for about 400,000 people. To put that into perspective, the population of mid-sized cities like Tulsa, Cleveland and Miami is a little under 400,000. As a group, the projects demonstrate that an infinitesimal amount of federal funding (compared to say, the Iraq war) can have a significant impact on the ability of the U.S. to sustain future growth — a far different approach than the one currently being advocated by certain penny wise, pound foolish legislators at both the state and federal levels.

WaterSMART Projects

The new grants are part of the Interior Department’s WaterSMART program, established in February 2010. The initiative was designed to pull together the Department’s various resources, lead by the Bureau of Reclamation, to help states deal with “drought, climate change, growing populations, energy demands and basic environmental needs [that] are stressing our finite water and energy supplies,” according to the department’s press release. Specifically, the focus is on projects that involve energy efficiency and alternative energy.

Water Conservation: Low Tech, High Tech

Many of the projects involve relatively inexpensive improvements that use conventional technology. One example is an irrigation company in Washington State, which will simply replace open ditches with pipes. By preventing seepage loss, the savings will amount to about 7,850 acre-feet of water, along with saving 4.3 million kilowatt hours of electricity due to reduced demand on pumped water. As an example of the high tech approach, an irrigation district in California will install use online GIS to save an estimated 11,500 acre-feet annually.

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/12tlY)