Companies Creating Next-Generation Wind Turbines

With investments still flowing toward wind energy projects – for now – researchers around the world are hunting for new technologies that will allow them to create turbines capable of high electricity output and power savings. According to Tree Hugger, a green living news source, a number of organizations and individuals are striving toward this unique and important goal.

General Electric (GE), one of America’s biggest tech firms, has been working on a new turbine design that will produce both short- and long-term developments. The MIT Technology Review recently showcased the GE 2.5-120, an up-and-coming prototype that is rated at a lower wattage output – 2.5 MW compared to the previous generation’s 2.85 MW. But, the source states, annual kilowatt hour generation on the new model will be up to 15 percent higher.

Another development involved the other side of the equation: software. GE, working in collaboration with Zorlu Enerji, a Turkey-based utility company, designed a software suite that allows for real-time control over turbines to maximize energy allocation and storage. This kind of technology, if used widely, would enable engineers to make more effective use of a turbine network.

“By upgrading GE 2.5-MW wind turbines with WindBOOST software, Zorlu Enerji gets the benefit of increased energy production without additional equipment,” a GE spokesperson said in a press statement. “The 31 wind turbines now operate at the same power curve as 2.75-MW units, which is maximizing Zorlu Enerji’s return on investment.”

While it may take some time for these technologies to become more widespread in the United States and abroad, these developments hint at the continued innovation and explorative design taking place in the global green community. Stay with the LifeIsGreen.com blog for more updates on these and other exciting and important topics. 

Last-Minute Tax Credit Extension Saves Thousands Of Green Jobs

As Congressional Republicans and the Obama administration battled at the end of 2012 over the so-called “fiscal cliff,” green technology advocates quietly waited to see how the government’s renewable energy tax credits – considered by many to be necessary to foster the country’s nascent industry – would come into play. While some feared that these important investments would be scuttled, progressive members of Congress succeeded during the 11th hour to ensure that they would be extended for the duration of 2013.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), roughly 37,000 professionals in the green industry were spared a pink slip. Additionally, companies that had already mothballed their renewable energy projects, including German tech giant Siemens, are already beginning to call workers back in to resume operations.

The organization pointed to Vestas, a wind turbine manufacturing company, as an example of how this tax credit is spurring both employment opportunities and career growth. The business has hired 100 workers so far in 2013 to produce smaller, private devices that can be installed nationwide. Tony Knopp told the NRDC that the Production Tax Credit (PTC) was “a key factor” in its ability to continue expanding and hiring more personnel. 

The American Wind Energy Association, a U.S. trade group, announced on January 30 that 2012 saw over 13,124 megawatts of wind-derived electricity generation added to the national power grid. Thanks to the extended PTC, officials from the organization say that 2013 should be on par or even better than the previous year.

2013 could be a pivotal year for the U.S. green energy community, with the PTC providing necessary financing to organizations and companies that promote this sustainable form of power. Keep your eye out for new turbines thanks to the government’s decision to keep funds available for these worthwhile ventures. 

 

UPS Unveiling All-Electric Delivery Vehicles In California

UPS, one of the nation’s largest private delivery services, is rolling out a fleet of electric commercial vehicles in California. According to a press release from the company, the 100 trucks are expected to both save it money and reduce the amount of pollution it creates.

UPS forecasted that it will use 126,000 less gallons of gasoline per year as a result of this pilot program. With a range of 75 miles, the vehicles are ideal for metro areas. The fleet is an addition to the 2,500 energy-efficient trucks that UPS already operates. While many of them are gas-electric hybrid models, the company stated that it intends to use the results of this initiative to test the viability of all-electric delivery systems. 

California Governor Jerry Brown hailed UPS’ efforts in a statement, which was given in conjunction with a recent state executive order for more low- and zero-emission cars and trucks. 

“These all-electric vehicles remind us that California continues to be a dynamic center of innovation,” the governor said. “These trucks were built here, they’ll be driven here and they’re already changing the way business is done here – cutting emissions and eliminating the need for tanker trucks’ worth of fossil fuels.”

UPS worked in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which helped provide funding and technological support to the company. Several municipal organizations responsible for local energy efficiency advocacy and oversight. In a statement, the EPA pledged “commitment to the rapid deployment of electric vehicles as a means of cleaning the air, creating jobs and spurring innovation.”

These developments highlight the ways that green energy sources are being used to power the necessary infrastructure in our economy in increasingly bigger ways. Stay with the LifeIsGreen.com blog for more news and updates on these and other important topics.

NASA Set To Fly Energy Efficient Solar Sail Next Year

In a development that could have profound implications for how humanity conducts space travel, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced on February 7 that its first large-scale solar sail, known as the Sunjammer, will be taking flight next year.

This unique design relies on the forward pressure created by solar radiation to gently accelerate it. While slow at first, spacecraft equipped with such a sail can eventually reach or even exceed speeds currently achieved by modern rocket-based vessels. The sail, according to NASA, is approximately 124 feet on each side, or 13,000 square feet. With a calculated payload weight of 70 pounds, this technology could enable NASA to launch more energy-efficient missions into space.

Once in orbit, the craft is expected to conduct experimental maneuvers that will test its manual controls and stability mechanisms. The agency also reported that it will be testing a new generation of navigation systems as well. 

“Once proven, solar sail technology could enable a host of versatile space missions, including flying an advanced space-weather warning system to more quickly and accurately alert satellite operators and utilities on Earth of geomagnetic storms caused by coronal mass ejections from the sun,” NASA stated in a press release.

One usage openly theorized by the federal organization is that solar sails could be a low-cost way to remove debris from orbit. Additionally, the lack of propellant used in the design would reduce the amount of pollution that takes place around the Earth, which poses a risk to both spacecraft and the International Space Station.

These developments highlight the fact that researchers and scientists are working on ways to institute energy-efficient technologies in literally out-of-this-world ways. For more updates on this and other topics, continue reading the LifeIsGreen.com blog. 

British Scientists Create Real-Life “Six Million Dollar Man”

While it’s been about 40 years since the American television thriller “The Six Million Dollar Man” – a story about a law enforcement agent who is grievously injured but revitalized with bionic technology – went off the air, researchers and engineers have quietly been working on ways to incorporate the central vision of that show into reality. Now, according to several British news sources, a team of robotics designers known as Shadow have created the blueprint for what they believe would be the world’s first truly biomechanical man.

Known as “Rex,” the six-foot tall “person” is less of a functioning robot and more a workshop for the biomedical devices of the future. Most of the major organs in the human body were implemented into the design. For example, a pair of glasses fill in for the eyes by directing the images to a microchip embedded in Rex’s “head”. The machine’s central computer then processes the information. Additionally, the design incorporates a man-made form of blood that delivers oxygen molecules throughout the device. Rex also possess fully-functioning legs with Achilles tendons and hands that can pick up and manipulate objects .

“We were surprised how many of the parts of the body can be replaced,” Rich Walker, Shadow’s managing director, told The Sun, a U.K.-based news source. “There are some vital organs missing, like the stomach, but 60 to 70 per cent of a human has effectively been rebuilt.”

Rex is currently on display at the London Science Museum as part of one of its exhibits. While this kind of technology is still in its infancy, the fact that Rex only cost roughly $750,000 illustrates how biomedical devices are rapidly changing in the 21st century. With luck, patients around the world will one day benefit from this exciting breakthrough. 

Washington State Coastal Turbine Project Receives OK From Federal Government

In a significant development for the nation’s renewable energy community, the U.S. federal government has approved the environmental specifications for a Washington State-based coastal turbine project. The Whidbey Island initiative, which is slated to be installed in Puget Sound, would involve two electrical generators positioned 55 meters below the ocean surface. The wave forces at work in this region would power the turbines and produce power for the local community.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which was responsible for the ecological safety review, originally released its findings on January 15. The report stated that the initial license for a pilot program lease lasting 10 years met the government’s standards for local geological and wildlife preservation.

Commission staff analyzed the potential environmental effects of constructing and operating the project and concludes that licensing the project, with appropriate environmental protective measures, would not constitute a major federal action that would significantly affect the quality of the human environment,” the agency stated in a press release.

Other government organizations, according to green living website EarthTechling, such as the National Marines Fisheries Service, cautioned that some of the ecological dangers might not be readily observable until the initiative is fully underway and turbines are being installed on the Pacific Ocean floor. Part of the issue, officials told the source, is that an endangered breed of killer whales is known to inhabit the area where the generators might be placed. However, a separate study conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a federally funded research facility, concluded that no “significant tissue damage” would result from such an occurrence.

While the Whidbey Island tidal turbine project is still some time away from completion, this story highlights both the challenges and opportunities in the eco-friendly tech sector. For more updates on this and other topics, stay with the LifeIsGreen.com blog. 

Energy Secretary Steven Chu To Step Down

President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, announced last week that he will be resigning from his post sometime in February, following four years of management that have resulted in serious investments in renewable power technologies, increased funding for innovative projects and, unfortunately, a fair amount of controversy as well.

Secretary Chu stated his intentions in a published letter to the employees of the Department of Energy. In the note, he thanked his team for their service and predicted that the work the Obama administration had begun will continue for many years to come.

“Just as today’s boom in shale gas production was made possible by Department of Energy research from 1978 to 1991, some of the most significant work may not be known for decades. What matters is that our country will reap the benefits of what we have started. It has been a great honor and privilege to work with all of you,” Chu wrote in the letter.

Throughout the letter , the Secretary of Energy expounded on a number of accomplishments the government agency achieved under his leadership, including a wide variety of home and commercial efficiency regulations and standards that have reaped billions of dollars in annual savings. Similarly, the department’s web of research organizations have increased their output and released approximately 2,400 scientific peer-reviewed studies and reports.

There were also some less successful initiatives spearheaded during Chu’s tenure as Energy Secretary. For example, the much-criticized loan of approximately $540 million to Solyndra, the failed American solar panel maker, in 2009 has slowed down the advance of federal green investments. 

With more renewable energy projects opening every year and more potential developments on the horizon, Secretary Chu certainly made a positive impact on the U.S. green power sector. 

Has Boeing’s 787 Disaster Dealt A Blow To Energy Efficient Aircraft?

On January 16, a mysterious burning smell aboard a brand-new Boeing 787 Dreamliner forced the airplane to make an emergency landing in Japan. The culprit was an auxiliary lithium-ion battery that had begun to burn. An investigation into the issue led to the release of numerous details, including prior concerns about the battery’s ability to hold a charge and prevent itself from overheating. Due to the many answers still being sought by U.S. and Japanese inspectors, 787 fleets around the globe are being grounded indefinitely.

As one might expect, this month as been both a public relations and technological disaster for Boeing. According to U.K.-based newspaper The Guardian, CEO Jim McNerney feels “deep regret” over the controversy and has pledged resources to a full internal audit of the battery’s problems. However, it might be some time before the 787 takes flight once again. Another long-term issue may be that efforts to create energy-efficient aircraft – a goal that the Dreamliner was meant to represent – may be stymied for some time.

Aerospace experts speaking with the source pointed to Boeing’s failure to contain problems that develop as a result of outsourced manufacturing. The components that make up the Dreamliner come from a variety of subsidiaries and associate companies worldwide, a structure that leaves little time for overhead maintenance and supervision. Robert Mann, a former executive in the American airline industry, told The Guardian that federal regulators may have felt pressure to speed up the approval process.

“There’s leading edge and there is bleeding edge,” Mann said during the interview. “There were so many innovations on this plane that it is hard to fathom how it got approved so quickly. Thankfully, no one was hurt.”

Will the Dreamliner’s failure set back eco-friendly airplanes? At this stage in the investigation, it’s tough to say. Stay with the LifeIsGreen.com blog for more updates on this important and controversial topic.