Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Techo-leapfrogging at its best: 2,000 Indian villages skip fossil fuels, get first electricity from solar

Puri Orissa, India. Nomad Tales via flickr

By Matthew McDermott, New York, NY

If you ever need a great example of technological leapfrogging in practice, here it is: In the Indian state of Orissa, the state government has decided to electrify approximately an additional 2,000 villages by March 2012. But rather than hook them up to coal-fired power plants, it will be using decentralized solar power. Biomass, wind power and a variety of small-scale hydropower projects are also in the mix.

Express Buzz reports that currently there are 395 villages powered through solar, with an additional 205 to be completed by the end of the year. Detailed reports to deploy solar to at the remaining villages are being drawn up.

Further renewable energy development in Orissa includes 118 MW of biomass plants, with 20 MW of that to be completed soon. Two wind power projects, 150 MW in size are in the works, with surveys for 22 more locations underway. Micro, mini and small-scale hydropower projects are also planned for deliver an additional 300 MW. …

Techo-Leapfrogging At Its Best: 2,000 Indian Villages Skip Fossil Fuels, Get First Electricity From Solar

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Canceled coal plants show carbon trade is working, Barclays analyst says

Point Carbon's OTC price assessments

By Mathew Carr - Sep 14, 2010 4:24 AM PT

Planned investment by European utilities and RWE AG’s cancellation of a coal plant in Poland demonstrates that emissions trading works, according to an analyst at the investment bank of Barclays Plc.

One European utility wants to boost its renewable energy capacity to 21 gigawatts by 2020 from 2.2 gigawatts this year, Trevor Sikorksi, a London-based analyst at Barclays Capital, said in a Sept. 13 research note, citing a speech at one of the bank’s conferences. He didn’t name the company.

Essen-based RWE plans to halt construction of the 800- megawatt coal-fired power plant near Katowice, southern Poland, showing “how extensively the investment behavior of companies in large-emitting sectors has changed with the introduction of the European Union emissions-trading system,” he said. The program started in 2005.

Canceled Coal Plants Show Carbon Trade Is Working, Barclays Analyst Says

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Potomac River: 10-fold increase in native submerged vegetation reflects improved water quality

Stargrass (Heteranthera) with milfoil (Myriophyllum). (Credit: Nancy Rybicki, U.S. Geological Survey) 

ScienceDaily (Sep. 7, 2010) — The Potomac River in Washington, D.C. is showing multiple benefits from restoration efforts, newly published research suggests.Reduced nutrients and improved water clarity have increased the abundance and diversity of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in the Potomac, according to direct measurements taken during the 18-year field study.

Since 1990, the area covered by SAV in the lower Potomac has doubled, the area covered by native SAV has increased ten-fold, the diversity of plant species has increased, and the proportion of exotic species to native species has declined as nutrients have declined, according to the study by the U.S. Geological Survey and England's National Oceanography Centre (NOC) in Southhampton, UK.

"Improvements to plant communities living at the bottom of the river have occurred nearly in lock step with decreases in nutrients and sediment in the water and incremental reductions in nitrogen effluent entering the river from the wastewater treatment plant for the Washington DC area," said USGS scientist Dr. Nancy Rybicki.

More than a dozen species of SAV, including the exotic hydrilla, co-exist in this reach of the Potomac that was almost barren in a 1978-1981 USGS study.

"People want to know that money spent on ecosystem restoration is having tangible results, but many feel that efforts to clean up Chesapeake Bay have so far had limited success," said researcher Dr Henry Ruhl of the NOC.

"Upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant have benefited SAV habitats 50-miles downstream. These findings underscore the benefits of nutrient reduction efforts on a major tributary to the Chesapeake Bay," said Rybicki, who has been conducting research on the Potomac since 1979.

"Our results suggest that widespread recovery of submerged vegetation abundance and diversity can be achievable if restoration efforts are enhanced across the bay," said Henry Ruhl of the National Oceanography Centre. "There are many other estuaries globally where nutrients have been identified as contributing to SAV habitat decline, so restoration is an issue for many governments." …

Potomac River: 10-fold increase in native submerged vegetation reflects improved water quality

Insurers demand key role in climate adaptation

Property insurance premiums (non-life, non-health) per person and per year. Munich Re, 2006 / Staff, BusinessGreen, Tuesday 7 September 2010 at 00:15:00

Coalition of insurance firms issue statement urging governments to support public-private initiatives designed to accelerate rollout of climate-related insurance policies

Over 100 of the world's leading insurance companies joined forces yesterday to urge world leaders to draw on the industry's expertise to shape climate adaptation policies for developing countries being worked on as part of the UN's climate change negotiations.

The Prince of Wales's ClimateWise insurance industry group, the Geneva Association think tank, UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) and Munich Climate Insurance Initiative, which together represent the world's leading insurance and risk management firms, co-ordinated the joint statement calling on governments to better support proven insurance mechanisms for tackling climate change risks.

The four-page statement [pdf], which was released on the eve of the British government's Capital Markets Climate Initiative conference in London, argues that public-private initiatives would allow insurers to extend climate-related policies to developing economies that would help them to manage the risks posed by extreme weather events.

Specifically it calls on governments to formally acknowledge the role of the insurance industry in the on-going UN climate change negotiations and deliver funding and regulatory frameworks that enable the wider rollout of climate-related insurance products.

Andrew Torrance, chairman of ClimateWise and chief executive of Allianz Insurance, said that it was in governments' own interests to utilise the risk management skills found in the insurance industry. …

Insurers demand key role in climate adaptation

Monday, September 6, 2010

Listening in on my brainwaves

Here I am doing a demo of my near-realtime brainwave-to-sound program. Occasionally, my brainwaves sound like something by Gy├Ârgy Ligeti.

Brainwave to soundwave demonstration

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Friday, September 3, 2010

HP competition winner has rooftop farms, plugin units

National Winner, HP Skyline 2020 Online Competition. Participants Anto Gloren, Sayali Athale, Pune

The HP Skyline 2020 competition "outlined fresh visual imaginations for the skyline discarding preconceived notions" and "allowed students and professionals to partner and elucidate their visions and designs that would change the skyline thereby transforming the city itself."

The winners, Anto Gloren, Sayali Athale, and Pune, hung 1000 square foot units from towers in a tensegrity structure. Their roofs are all used for agriculture, their waste is purified and used to water the farm on the next level down, and biowaste and human waste is treated and turned into biofuel to create energy for the project. The designers try to address the food crisis, the water crisis and the energy crisis …

HP Competition Winner Has Rooftop Farms, Plugin Units

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

6 global warming skeptics who changed their minds

Climate change doubters have just lost one of their leading lights, as writer Bjorn Lomborg calls for a worldwide carbon tax. But he's not the first high-profile defector

Bjorn Lomborg, a renowned climate change skeptic, recently announced he's changed his mind on the topic. Photo: Facebook

posted on September 1, 2010, at 2:15 PM

With 2010 shaping up as the warmest year on record and unprecedented heat waves gripping the planet, global warming skeptics have suffered another blow with the defection of the "most high-profile" member of their camp, author Bjorn Lomborg. But Lomborg isn't the first doubter to accept the scientific consensus that human carbon emissions are warming the planet and need to be curtailed. Here, a review of several prominent cases:

1. Bjorn Lomborg, Danish academic

Lomborg made waves with his 2001 book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, which argued that global warming was no big deal, and fighting it would be a waste of money. This month, he's publishing Smart Solutions to Climate Change, which argues that a global carbon tax should be imposed to raise $150 billion a year to address global warming.
Before quote: "In 20 years' time, we’ll look back and wonder why we worried so much." (2002)

After quote: "We actually have only one option: we all need to start seriously focusing, right now, on the most effective ways to fix global warming." (2010)

2. Dmitri Medvedev, Russian president

Russian leaders are famously skeptical of global warming, with then–President Vladimir Putin quipping in 2003 that a warmer Russia "wouldn't be so bad" because "we could spend less on fur coats, and the grain harvest would go up." Then Russia caught fire this summer, choking Moscow with deadly smoke, devastating agricultural production, and convincing Medvedev and other leaders that perhaps global warming is a threat, after all.

Before quote: Climate change is "some kind of tricky campaign made up by some commercial structures to promote their business projects." (2009)

After quote: "Unfortunately, what is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history faced such weather conditions in the past." (2010) …

6 global warming skeptics who changed their minds