- In our continued effort to track progress in the renewable energy industry, I turn my attention to wind power this month. A record fell late in the month of June with the largest wind farm in the world coming online – a 367.2 megawatt (MW) off-shore behemoth with 102 turbines. Walney Farm is located off the coast of Cumbria, UK and can power up to 320,000 homes. Walney Farm will only hold this title for a short time as the London Array is scheduled to come online at the end of this year with 630-MW of wind power potential. And in a wind power generation record, more than 4 gigawatts (GW) flowed into transmission lines owned by the Bonneville Power Administration on March 11th which was twice as much as was generated by non-renewable sources during the same time.Several intriguing advancements in wind technology also caught my attention in the past few months. Altaeros Energies launched a working demonstration of a small, mobile wind turbine that hovers up to 1,000 feet off the ground. If the company can deliver on its promises, this could be a low-cost energy solution for remote projects and/or villages that have relied on trucked in diesel fuel in the past. A Canadian company, OrganoWorld, has developed a low-speed wind turbine that can generate as much as 500 times the power than can large-blade turbines in gentle winds. The company is currently seeking funding to commercialize a 250 kilowatt (kW) unit.
- Are you looking forward to a summer vacation to your favorite beach or perhaps to a new and unexplored coastal destination? If so, you might want to check out a new website hosted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Testing the Waters. On this site, you can input a state, zip code or beach name to find statistics on the water quality as related to outbreaks of waterborne diseases. The results are displayed in text format as well as on an interactive map with a summary of water quality by sampling site. The data that feeds this website comes from the Environmental Protection Agency which was authorized to monitor our coastal waters by the BEACH Act.
- A common swipe against marine tidal and wave power is that the costs of installation and then maintenance in the unforgiving salty and turbulent ocean waters, makes this attractive power source not economically feasible. A research team made up of engineers and mathematicians from the University of Exeter and Tel Aviv University hopes to change this. They have devised a system that can be added to point absorbers – or energy generation devices that create power by moving with waves – and will help to predict the size and strength of the next wave. By predicting the next wave, point absorbers can improve the timing of their response to this wave and thus increase overall system efficiency by as much as two-fold. Predicting the next wave can also reduce storm damage when the oceans are too choppy for safe power generation.
- Is it possible to use your cotton t-shirt as a battery? The answer is yes according to a researcher at the University of South Carolina, Xiaodong Li. Li found a way to turn your favorite shirt into a capacitor that can be charged and discharged many times without losing much of its ability to hold the electric charge. Li turns cotton into a capacitor by soaking the shirt in a fluoride solution, drying it out and then baking it in an oxygen-less oven so it does not burn up. After that, the shirt is treated with a microscopic layer of manganese oxide to improve electric flow through the activated carbon fibers of cotton. Li believe this is the first step in creating flexible batteries that can be used in foldable cell phones and laptops!
- The uses of GIS in the ‘real world’ seem to have no limit which should make sense to us industry geeks; after all, human beings are spatial creatures and GIS is a spatial-based software package. Kirk Goldsberry completed a spatial analysis of basketball shooting from 2006 to 2011 and mapped the average points per shot by location. As a basketball fan, I found it interesting that without fail, the three-pointer is one of the most efficient shots in game – despite the constant drone I hear from many announcers to the contrary. The other highly efficient spot was right under the basket – go figure! You can read more about his findings here.
Brock Adam McCarty