Category Archives: Energy

Japan's renewable energy puzzle: solar push threatens environment

As the country rushes to cut carbon emissions by 26%, campaigners worry that forests and wildlife are being trampled

The tens of thousands of solar panels resting on the surface of the Yamakura dam reservoir have finally begun to earn their keep.

This floating solar farm in Chiba prefecture is the biggest of its kind in Japan – and one of the largest in the world – covering 180,000 square metres, or roughly equivalent to 25 Wembley stadium pitches.

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Source: gad

Is Fukushima doomed to become a dumping ground for toxic waste?

Despite promises of revitalisation from Japan’s government, seven years on from the nuclear disaster the area is still desolate

This month, seven years after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdowns and explosions that blanketed hundreds of square kilometres of northeastern Japan with radioactive debris, government officials and politicians spoke in hopeful terms about Fukushima’s prosperous future. Nevertheless, perhaps the single most important element of Fukushima’s future remains unspoken: the exclusion zone seems destined to host a repository for Japan’s most hazardous nuclear waste.

No Japanese government official will admit this, at least not publicly. A secure repository for nuclear waste has remained a long-elusive goal on the archipelago. But, given that Japan possesses approximately 17,000 tonnes of spent fuel from nuclear power operations, such a development is vital. Most spent fuel rods are still stored precariously above ground, in pools, in a highly earthquake-prone nation.

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Source: gad

No longer 'alternative', mainstream renewables are pushing prices down | Simon Holmes à Court

While the government insists that renewables have made our grid unreliable, lights have stayed on and prices are dropping

On the first day of autumn tens of thousands of Victorians received a welcome surprise from their power company — their electricity bills were going down. Prices were cut 5% because the retailer increased their investment in renewable energy.

This will likely come as a surprise to many. Since the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and the energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, decided that bashing renewables would play well for them — perhaps more so in the party room than in the electorate — hardly a day goes by without claims that renewables have made our grid unreliable and have pushed prices sky high.

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Source: gad

It's 50 years since climate change was first seen. Now time is running out | Richard Wiles

Making up for years of delay and denial will not be easy, nor will it be cheap. Climate polluters must be held accountable

Fifty years ago, the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) delivered a report titled Sources, Abundance, and Fate of Gaseous Atmospheric Polluters to the American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association for the fossil fuel industry.

The report, unearthed by researchers at the Center for International Environmental Law, is one of the earliest attempts by the industry to grapple with the impacts of rising CO2 levels, which Stanford’s researchers warned if left unabated “could bring about climatic changes” like temperature increases, melting of ice caps and sea level rise.

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Source: gad

Burning coal may have caused Earth’s worst mass extinction | Dana Nuccitelli

New geological research from Utah suggests the end-Permian extinction was mainly caused by burning coal, ignited by magma

Earth has so far gone through five mass extinction events – scientists are worried we’re on course to trigger a sixth – and the deadliest one happened 252 million years ago at the end of the Permian geologic period. In this event, coined “the Great Dying,” over 90% of marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species went extinct. It took about 10 million years for life on Earth to recover from this catastrophic event.

Scientists have proposed a number of possible culprits responsible for this mass extinction, including an asteroid impact, mercury poisoning, a collapse of the ozone layer, and acid rain. Heavy volcanic activity in Siberia was suspected to play a key role in the end-Permian event.

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Source: gad

Nuclear fusion on brink of being realised, say MIT scientists

Carbon-free fusion power could be ‘on the grid in 15 years’

The dream of nuclear fusion is on the brink of being realised, according to a major new US initiative that says it will put fusion power on the grid within 15 years.

The project, a collaboration between scientists at MIT and a private company, will take a radically different approach to other efforts to transform fusion from an expensive science experiment into a viable commercial energy source. The team intend to use a new class of high-temperature superconductors they predict will allow them to create the world’s first fusion reactor that produces more energy than needs to be put in to get the fusion reaction going.

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Source: gad

Look, no lithium! First rechargeable proton battery created

Researchers say it’s a crucial step towards cheaper and more environmentally-friendly energy storage

Scientists have created the world’s first rechargeable proton battery, a crucial step towards cheaper and more environmentally-friendly energy storage.

While the battery is just a small-scale prototype, it has the potential to be competitive with currently available lithium-ion batteries.

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Source: gadt

How America's clean coal dream unravelled

Exclusive: Kemper power plant promised to be a world leader in ‘clean coal’ technology but Guardian reporting found evidence top executives knew of construction problems and design flaws years before the scheme collapsed

High above the red dirt and evergreen trees of Kemper County, Mississippi, gleams a 15-story monolith of pipes surrounded by a town-sized array of steel towers and white buildings. The hi-tech industrial site juts out of the surrounding forest, its sharp silhouette out of place amid the gray crumbling roads, catfish stands and trailer homes of nearby De Kalb, population: 1,164.

The $7.5bn Kemper power plant once drew officials from as far as Saudi Arabia, Japan and Norway to marvel at a 21st-century power project so technologically complex its builder compared it to the moonshot of the 1960s. It’s promise? Energy from “clean coal”.

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Source: gad

How a small town reclaimed its grid and sparked a community revolution | Aditya Chakrabortty

The latest article in our new economics series looks at what happened when a German utilities contract expired, and one man thought his neighbours could take over

• Listen to Aditya Chakrabortty talking about game-changing economic models on The Alternatives podcast

Martin Rühl never imagined this fight would define the rest of his life. Not for a moment did he reckon it would become so epic in length, in scale, in consequences. He just thought his speck of a town should run its own electricity supply.

A modest proposal, but in the Germany of 2003 it was highly unusual. Gerhard Schröder was still chancellor and, although a social democrat, was pushing through more privatisations of public assets than any other leader in German history. This was in a Europe that had learned from Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan to stop worrying and start loving the private sector. Now here, swimming against history’s current, was one orderly, slightly anxious engineer.

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Source: gad

After the 'sunrush': what comes next for solar power?

The fall in costs that has driven solar’s rapid growth is slowing – but scientists are exploring the next generation of materials that can harness more energy from the sun

Some people call it the “sunrush”: a 25-year period in which solar power has grown exponentially, transforming the technology from rarefied oddity to the world’s fastest-growing energy source.

This surge, which saw 100MW of capacity in 1992 rocket to more than 300GW in 2016, has been largely driven by falling costs, which plunged 86% between 2009 and 2017.

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Source: gad