Monday, March 28, 2005

Energy at 15,000 Feet

Worldchanging reports on a wild new engineering feat from Australian Bryan Roberts. High altitude tethered wind turbines, hanging at 15,000 feet, generate energy from "average" winds at atmospheric heights. Apparently, clusters of 600 units can produce more power than a nuclear power plant and take up a 10x20 mile rectangle of airspace.

Tethered at 15,000 Posted by Hello

Genius, really and kudos to Bryan for not giving up and operating on a shoestring budget. "A number of years ago. on a very limited budget, together with his Australian colleagues, he built and tested the FLYING ELECTRIC GENERATOR shown in the picture at the upper right generating electricity at an altitude of sixty feet on an exceptionally windy day. He has now designed a Flying Electric Generator, classified as a rotorcraft, using a single tether, designed to operate at an altitude of 15,000 feet and higher where only average winds are sufficient to generate power."

One key question I have: If we have a bunch of these clusters hanging in the sky like mobiles above cribs, will air-traffic controllers go ballistic? I can't imagine guiding 747s and helos around these 200 mile blocks of airspace with 15,000 feet of rope dangling down. However, the sky is that big, so maybe there is a way to work it.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Good New from Down Under

The Christian Science Monitor reports on a significant alliance developing between the logging industry and conservation groups in Australia. In a region of the world where illegal logging fuels the demand for hardwoods and softwoods (most of it going to China), an agreement of this magnitude shows the potential of formerly opposing interests uniting to solve challenges both parties are facing.

"If replacing confrontation with cooperation on forestry issues works here, says Kevin Latrobe, "'it will be a model for how we move forward elsewhere. We are being watched.'"

This is clearly not an agreement that guarantees a commitment to overhaul the logging industry and its extraction practices. However, it does represent the best hope for reconciling competing values on a highly charged issue. Regardless, it is a step in the right direction and here's to hoping the industry and environmental communities begin to follow suit.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Navy Sonar: Wreaking Havoc or Protecting the World's Oceans?

For the past 10 years the U.S. Navy has evaded public scrutiny, ducked environmental laws and regulations and ignored the horrible effects of their low-frequency active sonar (LFA) on marine mammals throughout the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, where they currently use the sub-locating technology.

Truthout reports on the latest casualities of this sonar technology. Submarine technology has evolved so that they have become invisible to ships on the surface. This new technology will give American naval vessels the ability to "see" enemy subs. In a time of war, this is a good thing. However, the price the marine world is paying is drastic.

The Navy blasts the sonar so loudly that it breaks the eardrums, causes sinuses to explode, and causes massive hemorrhaging within the skull of whales, dolphins and other mammals that use their own sonar to locate food and navigate. In March of 2000, right after a Navy sonar test off the coast of the Bahamas, 14 whales washed ashore. Biologists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute examined them to find massive tissue damage throughout their skulls and ears. The Navy's test was only 195 decibels. The standard Navy sonar is blared at a staggering 240 db---20,000 times louder.

The debate here is whether the loss and destruction of marine mammals and their already fragile populations is worth this technology. What is extremely frustrating is that the majority of these are firing blanks with your .45, except they aren't blanks because you're causing fatalities and wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems. The Navy claims the environmental impacts are being controlled yet we still have mammals washing ashore with exploded eardrums and bleeding from their sinuses. I understand the need for such sonar, but the possible impact it will have on our marine life seems a bit high. Also, see NRDC's comments on this issue for more background

Friday, March 04, 2005

Around the Horn...

Over at Nature Noted Pat Burns talks about an interesting switch in forestry philosophy between, who else, Sierra Club members and Earth First! activists. Thats right...EF wants MORE logging. Huh?

Chris Mooney touches on a recent speech by John Marburger, a top physicist under President Bush, who was caught defending the administration's stance on global warming. See the article in the Princetonian.

Earth Justice tells us why new EPA Director Steven Johnson has raised some concerns in the environmental community. Why? Well, besides the fact that anyone appointed to be in charge of our environment by George W. Bush is disconcerting, he's failed to stand up for environmental policies that might challenge the administration. For instance the question of whether mercury should be kept out of our water systems...Johnson had no comment. Hmmmmm....Also, its never good when electric and power companies celebrate your nomination if you're a member of the EPA.

Over at Commons Pete Geddes touches on the radioactivity of coal power plants and why nuclear may be a safer option in the end, that is, if renewables are taken off the table.

Shirazi at Greensweep touches on the amazing Karez irrigation system she experienced while in the largest land mass of Pakistan, the Balochistan, a dry, arid and daunting landscape west of the Indus Plains. Maybe something we could learn from these genius irrigators...

Willie Does Diesel

Willie Nelson, founder of Farm Aid and one of the heartland's biggest advocates, has officially endorsed biodiesel as the key to America's energy needs. I obviously don't have to tell you the ripple effect this will have on industries from trucking to agriculture, but you can imagine what an all-American product (made in the USA) could do for the 2 most traditional industries in this country.

Willie fillin' up Posted by Hello

"Willie Nelson's Biodiesel," made from soybeans and vegetable oils, is available at a truck stop near you starting today. What this does is open up a whole new dialogue with the trucking community, a notoriously difficult group to break into. But for Willie, "its like Tiger Woods talking about golf clubs" at your local driving range. In other words, when Willie talks, these folks listen.

One hitch in all of this is the availability of biodiesel. The National Biodiesel Board shows that there aren't many places to fill up outside of the midwest. Yet, if you find yourself trucking through route 70, you should be all set. Let's hope this catches on and the government falls behind it.