1. 3D solar towers
MIT researchers have developed and tested a range of 3D solar towers to achieve power output that is up to 20 times greater than traditional fixed flat solar panels with the same base area. Here is an example of two of the models tested:
The towers provide a more even output across the whole day and through the seasons, capturing more power when the sun is lower in the sky and through cloudy and shady conditions.
The cost of the 3D modules is higher per the amount of energy generated when compared to conventional flat solar panels, but could come into their own where you have flat rooves and high land prices. They could be installed at car parks to provide clean energy for electric vehicles.
I imagine they could also reduce the need for batteries.
2. Solar Buddy
A Brisbane man has created a small solar light designed to be used in refugee tents and dwellings without power in the developing world. It is a small sealed unit with an integrated solar panel, which will run for 10 hours.
The idea came to him as he lived in a tent after a marriage breakup where he lost contact with his three children. He fell to thinking how refugees got on living in tents for long periods of time.
He developed a prototype and flew to Geneva where he walked into UN HQ hoping to talk to someone. For a while he couldn’t get past the foyer, but eventually someone took some interest in this strange Australian. As it happened someone in the UN had just been tasked to investigate lighting for refugees living in tents, and he made contact. Now he is supplying his lights to where they are needed around the world.
3. Hybrid electric system for road transport
A French company is using graphene supercapacitors to capture energy produced when a semi-trailer uses its brakes, and return the power to boost acceleration. They actually call them “ultracapacitors”. The graphene ultracapacitors can store much more of the braking energy as power and return it much faster than most battery storage options.
The system saves around 25% in fuel used, and hence reduces emissions.
The ultracapacitors are fitted under the tray of the truck and are connected to electric motors in the wheels.
4. Earth getting greener due to rising carbon dioxide levels
With global warming some parts of the earth’s surface are browning, but as mentioned elsewhere overall the earth is greening.
- researchers found between 25 to 50 per cent of all vegetated areas of the land have become greener, only 4 per cent have become browner.
These included Mongolia, Argentina and areas of North America close to Alaska.
While south-eastern Australia also showed browning, overall the Australian continent was greening, said Dr Canadell.
Plant coverage has grown by 18 million square kilometres in the past 33 years. Photosynthesis absorbs about 25 per cent of the carbon we emit, so while greening helps to maintain this percentage, more and more carbon remains aloft.
However, the extra growth will not solve the world’s food problems, as high CO2 levels significantly reduce essential nutrients in staple crops such as wheat, rice, maize and soyabeans. Many can’t afford to eat meat, which is a handy nutritional package, but environmentally problematic. Some 2 million already suffer from zinc and iron deficiencies.
See Dietterich et al for a more extensive, more sophisticated study.
Prior to the Paris climate conference not a lot of scientific attention had been given to the difference 1.5°C of global warming would make compared with 2°C. Carl-Friedrich Schleussner at Climate Analytics in Berlin and the Potsdam Institute with his colleagues from Potsdam, Switzerland, Austria and The Netherlands were already on the case, and have now produced a final paper.
It’s worth a longer post, but in relation to Item 4 above, they show that wheat and maize will produce less as the climate warms, whereas soybeans and rice will produce more.
Coral bleaching increases from 90% of reefs affected at 1.5°C to 98% of reefs at 2°C.
- Last April, the United States Department of Agriculture announced plans to tackle agriculture’s contribution to climate change. Dubbed the USDA’s Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry, the plan included a set of voluntary but incentive-based programs in ten key areas, from soil health to nutrient management. All told, the USDA estimated that the programs would help agriculture cut its emissions by 120 million metric tons by 2025 — the equivalent of taking more than 25 million passenger vehicles off the road.
And yes, they are spending money on their programs. However, because the changes made are also improving farm economics they think it doesn’t matter who sits in the White House next year. If they want to know how irrationally destructive conservative politicians can be they should visit Australia, and think again.