08_G15_InBox

Global Issue 15

Inbox EnErgy watch Trends around the world a multitude of appliances through the AC adaptor fitted behind one of the Soccket’s panels. While the creators’ imagine its primary use being to charge mobile phones, the students hope that the Soccket might serve a more humanitarian purpose. In developing countries where electricity is a luxury and football is passion, the ball could be used to power lights or heating sources. First electric taxis launched in Hong Kong In a step towards reducing the city’s pollution levels, BYD – a Chinese electric vehicle producer – launched 45 bright red taxis named the BYD e6. The five-door sedans are powered by iron phosphate batteries that take two hours to charge, and can travel for about 300 km before a stop is required at one of the nine charging locations that will be set up near car parks. The BYD e6’s are expected to not only reduce the city’s pollution levels, but to cost far less to run than their diesel and petrol equivalents, which means that taxi drivers will earn more. Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary, John Tsang said that he is committed to “promoting environmental sustainability by laying the foundation for Hong Kong to become a zero emissions city”. Rainforest ‘plays critical role in hydropower generation’ A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that the rainforest is critical in generating the streams and rivers that ultimately turn turbines. As a result, if trees continue to be felled, the energy produced by one of the world’s biggest dams – the proposed Belo Monte dam in Brazil – could be cut by a third. Many countries in tropical regions are turning to hydropower as an untapped source of energy. In Brazil alone, around 45 new hydro plants are in the planning stage. Rainforests, by their very name, are prime locations for the dams that are usually required to create the force of water needed to generate electric power. Until now the presumption has been that cutting down the trees near a dam actually increased the amount of water flowing into the dams. But in this new study, researchers took a broader look at the climate projections for the Amazon basin, rather than looking just at the rivers on which the dams were built. They found that rainforests are more critical than previously thought, as they produce the rain that fills the streams that ultimately drive the rivers and the turbines. Predictions for 2050 suggest a 40 per cent loss of forest, which is likely to entail significantly less rain and thus 35-40 per cent less power generated Everest excrement to be used as energy source Sherpa chefs in Nepal could soon be cooking food using a fuel source left behind by international visitors to Mount Everest. The tiny village of Gorak Shep, at the foot of the tallest mountain in the world, is seeking a solution to a serious problem – what to do with more than 12 metric tons of human excrement from the Everest, Pomori, Lhoste and Nupste base camps that are dumped in Gorak Shep’s open pits. A spring 2012 National Science Foundation (NSF) survey found that one of the two major sources of water to Gorak Shep had been contaminated by the messy problem. A volunteer group of Seattle-based engineers is working on an innovative solution, and one that will hopefully provide energy to the village too. The group completed a design for a biogas reactor to convert climbers’ faeces into methane gas to serve as a cooking fuel for the Sherpa villagers. If it is a success, the Mount Everest Biogas Project will be the world’s highest-elevation biogas reactor and proof-of-concept for an invaluable tool to protect iconic high-mountain ecosystems. Solar Impulse’s US journey On 3 May, a solar-powered aircraft – named the Solar Impulse – began the first leg of its journey on a mission to become the first aircraft to fly coast-to-coast across the US without using a single drop of fuel. The Solar Impulse is powered entirely by the sun, requiring no fossil fuels and emitting no pollution. Instead, the aircraft is covered in almost 12,000 silicon solar cells that drive four electric motors to turn the plane’s propellers day and night, assisted by special batteries that store power for night flight. Weighing in at approximately 400 kg, the batteries account for more than 25 per cent of the plane’s total mass. Smart meter project delayed The introduction of energy smart meters in 30 million UK homes will be delayed for more than a year, the government has announced. The £11.7bn project will now start in the autumn of 2015. Smart meters, which show customers how much gas and electricity is being used, should bring an end to estimated bills, as the technology sends back an accurate meter reading to an energy company every day. But their primary purpose is to improve electricity efficiency, as consumers become more savvy as to which appliances are using most power and tailor their usage accordingly. Sea Angel tests its enormous wings One of the world’s largest wind turbine systems has gone for testing by a German wind technology institute based at Bremerhaven. Known as Sea Angel, the system uses a turbine designed to generate 7 MW of power from a rotor that measures an enormous 167 metres across – with each of its blades having a length of 81.6 metres and a weight of 33 tonnes. Commissioned by Japan’s Mitsubishi, a production team based at an experimental manufacturing facility on the Baltic Sea island of Rügen sought to improve on the established dynamics of standard 55-metre blades with the use of innovative materials, some of them derived from the aerospace industry. The manufacturer, Berlin-based Euros, has received an order to supply the blades for a planned floating offshore turbine to be located near Japan’s former nuclear plant at Fukushima. 8 l www.global -br ief ing.org thi rd quar ter 2013 global


Global Issue 15
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