The Fibonacci Spiral
Someone recently said the words “Fibonacci” and “solar panels” to me, and my ears immediately pricked up. I’ve always been intrigued by the Fibonacci sequence and my first thought was of the PBS show Square One and its segment, MathNet, where I first learned about it.
But this decade’s reference to Fibonacci isn’t fiction. A seventh grader from New York named Aidan recently won the 2011 Young Naturalist Award from the American Museum of Natural History for his work identifying how the Fibonacci sequence can help increase electricity output of solar panels. continue
For a few years now, clean energy and sustainable business practices have been driving large-scale efforts inside companies of all sizes. Whether the end goal was cheap energy, response to impending government regulation or even a little positive media exposure, evidence of the new green corporate landscape is everywhere. The green movement is gaining a substantial amount of momentum with little evidence of slowing down, due to large-scale implementation of energy efficiency projects. I recently stumbled on an article that discussed how Google has invested $280 million through a partnership with SolarCity, a California-based solar design and installation company. continue
It looks like it is left to me to break the silence on The Watercooler about the Japanese Fukushima nuclear incident. First, it might be months or years before we have a full picture of the damage at the plant and its impact on the environment and population. Our prayers go out to those impacted by the radiation. This incident is a sobering reminder that processes behind nuclear power production are complicated and allow a slim margin for error.
With that said, continue
Several years ago, I was having what I considered to be a friendly conversation with a stranger about cap and trade legislation. Apparently, my self-monitor was slightly off that morning, because when I made a light-hearted joke, I was quickly put into my place and told how serious the issue was. I kindly apologized and exited the conversation as quickly as possible. However, I began thinking about the public perception and fear that comes with renewable legislation at the state and federal level. continue
In his State of the Union speech last month, President Obama called for the elimination of government subsidies to oil companies, concluding, “instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.” The administration estimates that cutting such subsidies will save about $4 billion a year. Considering a recent government report showed the feds wasted more than $125 billion in “improper payments” in 2010, that $4 billion isn’t exactly going to send budget-hawk hearts aflutter. Still, the President’s plan presents some interesting questions: how much do we spend in energy subsidies? What energy sources are the most subsidized? Are the subsidies worth the cost? continue
February 18, 2011 • Electricity, Perspectives
by Jackie Cobb
How much of your daily routine depends on energy? The house we own, the car we drive, the job we have, and the food we eat all rely on some sort of fuel or electricity. The foundation of most – if not all – economic and societal activity involves energy.
In short, energy fuels our world. Well, the developed world, anyway.
Over 1.4 billion people – 20% of the global population – have no access to electricity. In addition, more than 3 billion people strictly rely on solid fuels (like wood and animal waste) to meet their energy needs, at a tremendous cost to their health and economic productivity. continue
It appears I started something with my last post on nuclear power, as my colleagues Dominic Barbato and Kevin Cowart have added posts on nuclear power in the last couple of weeks. I’d like to return the favor by elaborating on something Dominic wrote.
Dominic commented on the “scientific elegance of harnessing the power of the atom.” Indeed, the scientific concept of nuclear energy is remarkably simple and efficient, which makes it all the more amazing that this source of energy has gone undeveloped in this country for more than 30 years. continue
Here is a simple question for everyone out there: Do you like money? Now, the response to such a question will be wide and probably very interesting, but I would suppose that the inner-capitalist in most of us would answer with a profound, “Of course I do.” Money buys the goods that keep our economy turning; when money is tight, it usually means conversations go from, “Nice weather today” to a glummer “bah humbug” type of response. Due to government policies of the 1980s, we witnessed a jolt to the U.S. economy, prompting a robust recovery and an infusion of capital through tax cuts, spurring the yuppie stereotype. Overall, most of us think of the 80s as the time when greed was the word de jour and the capital flowed, at least until the market crashed. We can go on and on about how cool money, taxes and the 1980s are, but I want to shift gears and transition to the ongoing developments at the Empire State Building. Don’t worry; we will still talk about money. continue
nuclear power plant
I’ve been reading articles about the coming nuclear power “renaissance” or “revolution” for years now, but America’s energy future never seems to arrive.
For a while there, it appeared the economic and political climates had aligned in favor of nuclear expansion for the first time in decades. The industry had worked hard to rebrand nuclear energy as a clean energy, focusing on the fact that it produces no greenhouse gas emissions and is more efficient and dependable than wind and solar. Such efforts caught the attention of politicians anxious to transform America’s carbon-heavy energy diet into a more climate-friendly, “green” energy future.
In 2008, presidential nominees from both major parties spoke favorably of including nuclear power as a part of the country’s sustainability strategy. The Obama administration proposed an additional $37 billion in federal loan guarantees for the construction of new reactors. About 30 new reactors were making their way through the application process, with four already under construction.
Then along came the Great Recession. continue
November 4, 2010 • Emerging Technology
by Dominic Barbato
“Size matters not…look at me. Judge me by my size, do you?”
For all you Star Wars fans out there (and for those of you who are not, shame on you!), Yoda’s wise words seem to fit this blog entry nicely. Recently, I read an article in the June 2010 issue of FastCompany titled “Supertiny Power Plants”, which highlighted some potential uses for piezoelectric materials.
Pizza, what?! I know, right? I was lost too, but the it’s pretty simple really. “Piezo” is a Greek word meaning to press or squeeze. Simply stated, piezeoelectric materials are able to generate an electric current in response to an applied mechanical strain (such as pressing or squeezing). You may remember from your high school physics class that electromagnetic induction (i.e., the production of a voltage) occurs when conductive material moves within a magnetic field. The generation turbines at a power plant apply this principle on a grand scale by rapidly spinning very large coils of wire inside even larger magnets. The rotation of the wire within the magnetic field creates an electric current which is then transferred over power lines for use at your home. continue