Friday, February 12, 2010

Smoking Ban

The Bluffton High School's Young Democrats Club, Young Republicans Club, and Students Making A Difference Club (SMAD) have come together to organize a committee to help BAN smoking in public restaurants and facilities. They have organized two separate petitions, one for citizens under the age of 18 and another for citizens over the age of 18. The committee has also created a commercial to help advertise this cause. Their goal is to post signs in Bluffton to gain recognition for this cause. They also plan to address the City Council on February 23 at a public meeting in the Bluffton High School cafetorium.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

NREL Battery Testing Capabilities Get a Boost

Batteries are the heart of today's advanced electric drive vehicles and many manufacturers have their own preference for specific battery geometry and chemistry including their choice of materials for cathodes and anodes. However, all of the manufacturers are concerned about the performance, life, safety and cost of lithium ion batteries even though their designs are varied. The U.S Department of Energy (DOE) is looking to help the U.S. battery industry with a simple goal -- to mass produce better batteries domestically while addressing safety, affordability, life, and performance.

As a result of DOE's support, more work and funding for battery research is coming to NREL via both indirect and direct avenues thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). In March, President Obama announced $2.4 billion to help drive the development of the next generation of electric drive vehicles in the United States. As part of that announcement, DOE released a competitive solicitation for up to $1.5 billion in federal funding for manufacturing advanced batteries and related drive components.

The funding will spur faster development of batteries for cars with electric powertrains, including hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, all-electric and fuel-cell vehicles. Battery thermal management is crucial in optimizing the performance and reducing the life-cycle costs for these types of batteries. Once manufacturers start cranking out new and more efficient prototypes, they'll turn to NREL for thermal testing and validation.

"Right now, we already have a back-log of batteries for thermal testing," NREL Principle Engineer and Energy Storage Task Leader Ahmad Pesaran said. "We know that in one or two years, when the battery companies start producing new batteries to evaluate, we wouldn't have been able to keep up without the new investment in equipment."

This fall, DOE recognized that NREL would be a key laboratory in the development of these advanced vehicle batteries. So, the lab was awarded $2 million from ARRA for the Battery Thermal and Life Test Facility.

"ARRA has already funded the battery industry to design and build new batteries. DOE also recognized that they needed to equip the national labs to test the new batteries that will be manufactured as a result of the ARRA investments," Pesaran said.

The $2 million dollars coming to NREL will be used to upgrade and enhance the capabilities of the lab with new testing and analysis equipment. Some of the money will also be used to upgrade the utilities and facilities where the researchers perform the testing.

NREL will be purchasing up to 20 new battery testers, which will nearly triple the lab's ability to test batteries. NREL will also purchase two new calorimeters to measure the heat and the efficiency of small and medium sized cells; augmenting NREL's two existing larger calorimeters.

"The team is very excited," Pesaran said. "There have been times where we haven't been able to accomplish all the technical studies that we wanted to do because of lack of equipment. This is going to help resolve that issue."

Pesaran noted that U.S. testing equipment manufacturers also will benefit from NREL's ARRA award because the new testing equipment will be ordered from U.S. suppliers. "The longer a battery lasts the better the cost efficiency and consumer satisfaction," Pesaran said. "For cars, it is expected that batteries will last 15 years compared with current lifetimes of only 5-10 years, mainly due to thermal issues."

Batteries are the centerpiece for advanced electric-drive vehicles. Making cars more energy efficient means using less fuel, which helps reduce oil consumption and the nation's dependence on foreign oil. Furthermore, they allow vehicles to drive on electricity, adding diversity to the fuel supply and increasing national energy security.

NREL researchers seek to improve the thermal performance of batteries by studying how heat affects the performance and life of batteries. NREL experts analyze fluid flow (liquid or air) through different types of battery packs to determine how the flow affects the pack's performance and life-cycle costs. Researchers measure and analyze the heat generation, efficiency, and specific heat of battery modules under specified charge/discharge cycles using the state-of-the-art calorimeters in NREL's energy storage laboratory. Incorporating thermal imaging (still and time-lapse video) helps researchers determine temperature distributions and identify potential hot spots in battery modules and packs.

"Measuring heat generated from a battery tells you how efficiently the battery is operating," Pesaran said. "The data on the heat generation is used by battery companies to determine how much cooling is needed to keep the battery at optimal temperatures because higher temperatures cause the battery to degrade faster.

"It's then up to the battery company to make some decisions. Can they reduce the amount of heat by changing the cell or material design? Or, will they design a cooling system to keep the battery at an optimal temperature. Cooling is easier; but because of the battery size, you need to make the cooling system as small and as efficient as possible without adding weight to the car."

In the end, the goal at NREL is to help industry develop better batteries. And, NREL has lots of companies lined up for future testing, many of which, according to Pesaran, wrote strong letters of support for NREL's ARRA funding application.


Whats Happening To The Arctic

Are warming conditions in the Arctic unprecedented in Earth’s history? It turns out that they are not. The Earth’s climate has gone through warming and cooling times in the past as can be seen in the fossil record that shows tropical species in regions now too cool to support them.

These past variations were obviously not caused by the effects of man's activities. This does not mean that the current warming trend is not caused, or affected by anthropogenic air pollution.

There is now increased evidence that the Arctic could face seasonally ice-free conditions and much warmer temperatures in the future.

Scientists have documented evidence that the Arctic Ocean and Nordic Seas were too warm to support summer sea ice during the mid-Pliocene warm period (3.3 to 3 million years ago). This period is characterized by warm temperatures similar to those projected for the end of this century, and is used as an analog to understand future conditions. The U.S. Geological Survey found that summer sea-surface temperatures in the Arctic were between 10 to 18°C (50 to 64°F) during the mid-Pliocene, while current temperatures are around or below 0°C (32°F).

Examining past climate conditions allows for a better understanding of how Earth's climate system really functions. USGS research on the mid-Pliocene is the most comprehensive global reconstruction for any warm period. This research will help refine climate models, which currently underestimate the rate of sea ice loss in the Arctic.

Loss of sea ice could have varied and extensive consequences, such as contributions to continued Arctic warming, accelerated coastal erosion due to increased wave activity, impacts to large predators (polar bears and seals) that depend on sea ice cover, intensified mid-latitude storm tracks and increased winter precipitation in western and southern Europe, and less rainfall in the American west.

"In looking back 3 million years, we see a very different pattern of heat distribution than today with much warmer waters in the high latitudes," said USGS scientist Marci Robinson. "The lack of summer sea ice during the mid-Pliocene suggests that the record-setting melting of Arctic sea ice over the past few years could be an early warning of more significant changes to come."

Global average surface temperatures during the mid-Pliocene were about 3°C (5.5°F) greater than today and within the range projected for the 21st century by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Green News

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

25% US Renewable Electricity Standard Will Create 274,000 Jobs

A new study released by Navigant Consulting finads that a 25% by 2025 national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) would support hundreds of thousands of new American jobs and prevent a near-term collapse in some industries. Job growth in the wind, solar, biomass, waste-to-energy and hydropower industries would particularly benefit the Southeastern U.S. and manufacturing states whose Congressional delegations have had a history of voting against incentives and other measures designed to support the renewable energy sector.

The "Job Impacts of a National Renewable Electricity Standard" study was released by the RES Alliance for Jobs and found that a 25% by 2025 national RES would support an additional 274,000 renewable energy jobs over a no-national policy option. The 25% figure is significantly higher than RES mandate in current legislation and the expected jobs supported in the current House and Senate provisions would be considerably lower.

In addition, the study found that without stronger near-term targets than currently envisioned, industries like wind will experience flat job growth and long-term stagnation, while the U.S. biomass industry could collapse altogether. The RES Alliance recommends raising near-term RES targets in federal legislation to 12% in 2014 and 20% in 2020.

"A strong Renewable Electricity Standard is crucial to create a stable investment environment and grow this highly promising sector. Without a strong RES, the U.S. wind industry will see no net job growth, and will likely lose jobs to overseas competitors. A target like 25 percent by 2025 would allow American wind companies to support double the amount of jobs than without a policy -- about 125,000 additional jobs. That's a gain our country cannot afford to pass up," said Don Furman, senior vice president for development, transmission and policy at Iberdrola Renewables.

States that stand to gain the most from a strong RES, according to the RES Alliance / Navigant Consulting study, include:
•Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee Georgia and Florida that can benefit from substantial biomass and municipal solid waste-to-energy
•Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Indiana, which will gain from growth in manufacturing for a wide range of technologies
•North and South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Illinois, home to major wind resources
•Colorado, Arizona, Oregon and California, where solar, wind and hydropower have significant growth potential
•States that do not currently have renewables standards or targets like Indiana, Florida, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Alabama
The study emphasizes that while tax credits continue to play a critically important role in preserving the viability of existing facilities, an RES is needed in order to support both near- and long-term investments.

Alternative Energy Grows Big In Europe

Wind and solar technology made up over half of Europe’s new electricity generating capacity in 2009, as the number of new coal and nuclear facilities fell More wind capacity was installed in Europe during 2009 than any other electricity-generating technology, according to statistics released today by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). Wind accounted for 39 per cent of increased European energy capacity, ahead of gas (26 per cent) and solar (16 per cent). In contrast, the nuclear and coal power sectors decommissioned more megawatts of capacity than they installed in 2009, with a total of 1,393 MW of nuclear and 3,200 MW of coal decommissioned.

Huffington Post

Monday, February 8, 2010

When Windmills Don’t Spin, People Expect Some Answers

For those who suspect residents in places like Minnesota of embellishment when it comes to their tales of bitterly cold winter weather, consider this: even some wind turbines, it seems, cannot bear it.

Times Topics: Wind PowerTurbines, more than 100 feet tall, were installed last year in 11 Minnesota cities to provide power, and also to serve as educational symbols in a state that has mandated that a quarter of its electricity come from renewable resources by 2025.

One problem, though: The windmills, supposed to go online this winter, mostly just sat still, people in cities like North St. Paul and Chaska said, rarely if ever budging. Residents took note. Schoolchildren asked questions. Complaints accumulated. “If people see a water tower, they expect it to stand still,” said Wally Wysopal, the city manager of North St. Paul. “If there’s a turbine, they want it to turn.”

No one knows for sure why these turbines do not. Officials believe there may be several reasons, but weather is the focus of much speculation. It is not as though turbines cannot function in cold places; thousands of them work perfectly well throughout Minnesota and the Midwest, the American Wind Energy Association is quick to note. But the 12 turbines in question, each 20 years old, spent their earlier years twirling in California.

“If you were to move a car from California to Minnesota, say, you would need to change the fluids,” said Derick O. Dahlen, president of Avant Energy, which manages the windmills for the Minnesota Municipal Power Agency.

Mr. Dahlen said workers were busy testing the turbines and, among other things, expected to add warming elements to gear boxes, oil and computers. In a month, he predicted, the turbines will be spinning smoothly. A possible setback: Mark Tresidder, another Avant official, said the state’s latest forecast included talk of sinking temperatures, an ice storm, maybe snow. “Given Minnesota weather,” Mr. Tresidder said, “there may be days when people can’t work out there.”

Huffington Post

'Climate Service,' New Federal Climate Change Agency, Is Forming

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Monday proposed a new agency to study and report on the changing climate.

Also known as global warming, climate change has drawn widespread concern in recent years as temperatures around the world rise, threatening to harm crops, spread disease, increase sea levels, change storm and drought patterns and cause polar melting.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, announced NOAA will set up the new Climate Service to operate in tandem with NOAA's National Weather Service and National Ocean Service. "Whether we like it or not, climate change represents a real threat," Locke said Monday at a news conference.

Lubchenco added, "Climate change is real, it's happening now." She said climate information is vital to the wind power industry, coastal community planning, fishermen and fishery managers, farmers and public health officials.

NOAA recently reported that the decade of 2000-2009 was the warmest on record worldwide; the previous warmest decade was the 1990s. Most atmospheric scientists believe that warming is largely due to human actions, adding gases to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas.

Researchers and leaders from around the world met last month in Denmark to discuss ways to reduce climate-warming emissions, and a follow-up session is planned for later this year in Mexico. "More and more people are asking for more and more information about climate and how it's going to affect them," Lubchenco explained. So officials decided to combine climate operations into a single unit.

Portions of the Weather Service that have been studying climate, as well as offices from some other NOAA agencies, will be transferred to the new NOAA Climate Service.

The new agency will initially be led by Thomas Karl, director of the current National Climatic Data Center. The Climate Service will be headquartered in Washington and will have six regional directors across the country.

Lubchenco also announced a new NOAA climate portal on the Internet to collect a vast array of climatic data from NOAA and other sources. It will be "one-stop shopping into a world of climate information," she said.

Creation of the Climate Service requires a series of steps, including congressional committee approval. But if all goes well, it should be finished by the end of the year, officials said. In recent years, a widespread private weather forecasting industry has grown up around the National Weather Service, and Lubchenco said she anticipates growth of private climate-related business around the new agency.

While most people notice the weather from day to day or week to week, climate looks at both the averages and extremes of weather over longer periods of time. And understanding both weather and climate, and their changes, are vital to much of the world's economic activity ranging from farming to travel to energy use and production and even food shipments and disease prevention.

Atmospheric scientists have long joked that climate is what you expect and weather is what you get. But greenhouse warming is changing what can be expected from climate, and researchers are seeking to understand and anticipate the impacts of that change.

Huffington Post