Climate Change

Energy storage breakthroughs on the horizon

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: November 18, 2011   View Article

Breakthroughs in energy storage technologies are on the horizon that could turn vast swathes of the world’s sun-soaked deserts and windy plains into sources of clean, renewable energy, according to experts focused on our energy future.

No one technology — ranging from storing a portion of the sun’s energy collected during the day in molten salt to run solar thermal generators at night to banks of lithium-ion batteries scattered around neighborhoods — will be the solution.

Rather, “there is going to be a portfolio of energy storage” options, Bruce Dunn, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of California at Los Angeles, told me Thursday.

Insuring against extreme weather

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: October 13, 2011   View Article

A high-tech crop insurance company aims to make farming profitable — and itself — by writing policies that offer protection against floods, frosts, droughts and other bouts of crop-damaging weather that are on the rise.

Whether the increase in these weather events are due to human-caused climate change, the company said, is not their business, but the events are trending upwards and they have the technology to analyze the risk they pose to individual farmers and price polices accordingly.

Himalayas: The future of solar?

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: October 12, 2011   View Article

The high peaks of the Himalayas may soon be a beacon for adventurous solar power entrepreneurs, suggests a new study that identified the lofty region as having some of the world’s greatest potential to capture energy from the sun.

Other regions not traditionally considered hotbeds of solar power potential include the Andes of South America and Antarctica, note Takashi Oozeki and Yutaka Genchi with the National Institute of Industrial Science and Technology in Japan.

Eternal youth: A fix for biofuels

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: October 11, 2011   View Article

The push to wean the biofuel industry off its heavy diet of corn may, ironically, involve transferring a corn gene to non-corn plants such as switch grass, suggests a new study.

The gene, called Corngrass 1, essentially locks the switch grass into a state of perpetual pre-adolescence, explained George Chuck, a plant molecular geneticist at the University of California at Berkeley.

“One of the consequences of staying juvenile forever is they don’t flower, they don’t become sexually mature,” he said.

How we’ll eat the same with climate change

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: October 7, 2011   View Article

Want a varied, abundant, and healthy diet in the decades ahead? Then be glad that researchers are beginning to pinpoint the genes that allow plants to thrive and adapt to different climates.

That’s because our agricultural system is largely adapted to perform in today’s climate, which despite some warmer and cooler swings over the past 10,000 years or so, has been relatively stable.

That’s unlikely to be the case in the future, meaning we will need to adapt our agricultural system to a changing climate if we aim to maintain our current eating and drinking habits.

‘Artificial leaf’ makes real fuel

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: September 30, 2011   View Article

It doesn’t look like the leaves changing colors and piling up on the lawn, but a nature-inspired “artificial leaf” technology has taken a notable step toward the goal of producing storable and clean energy to power everything from factories to tablet computers.

The leaf is a silicon solar cell coated with catalytic materials on its side that, when placed in a container of water and exposed to sunlight, splits the H2O into bubbles of oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen can be stored and used as an energy source, for example to power a fuel cell.

Can EVs solve wind power puzzle?

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: September 13, 2011   View Article

Electric vehicles outfitted with a $10 computer chip can help streamline the addition of wind power to the electric grid, according to a study that shows how the two types of technology could piece together the puzzle of our green energy future.

One of the biggest hurdles utilities face with the addition of wind power and other renewable sources of energy to the grid is where and how to store excess generation for use when people actually need it. Until that happens, if the wind blows when nobody needs electricity, for example, the energy is wasted.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach