Technology News

Emergency Health Care Improved by Innovative App

(3BL Media and Just Means)- "One picture is worth a thousand clinical words," said Crystal Law, MIT Alumna, former EMT and Co-Founder of Twiage.

Roshan, the First Benefit Corporation in Afghanistan, Brings People and Hope Closer

(3BL Media, Just Means)- In 2003, Afghanis had no access to international telecommunications. To call family members or business contacts anywhere else in the world, they had no option but to cross the border into a neighboring country, a luxury in which most Afghanis could not afford.

Coca Cola is the David that the Slingshot Needs.



"The Slingshot is the little tool that David needs to defeat Goliath"—Dean Kamen.

If We Can't Make Fracking Unnecessary, Can We At Least Make It Safer?

(3Bl Media/Justmeans) - Russell Gold’s pragmatic piece about fracking in the Wall Street Journal makes a number of excellent points. First, our economy has such an enormous appetite for energy, that there is no way we can simultaneously give up coal, oil, nuclear and natural gas, as much as the environment would like us to, without bringing things to a screeching halt. So pick your poison.

Conventional wisdom has been that gas is the lesser of the four evils, especially after Fukushima, where nuclear lost most of whatever remaining luster it had. Even the esteemed Rocky Mountain Institute said we could wean ourselves off the other three, while growing the economy, so long as we had natural gas as a “bridge fuel.” That was before the precipitous drop in gas prices due to the discovery of Marcellus Shale and before the realization of the many issues associated with fracking.

Gold mentions several of them: the leaks, the lack of water testing or understanding as to what constitutes a safe and suitable site, and the lack of quality control throughout the process.

He does not mention several other issues including the question of earthquakes triggered by fracking, and the presence of radon in the gas. Radon has a radioactive half-life of 2-3 days. The means that by the time it reaches New York from places like Louisiana, it is no longer radioactive. But it can get to New York a lot faster from Pennsylvania.

Mr. Gold focuses more on pre-testing water before drilling in order to protect companies from “abusive false claims” of water contamination, than he does on legitimate claims.

As to the question of leaks, which the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently found were serious enough to make natural gas less climate-friendly than diesel fuel (though still more benign than coal), he says it’s just a matter of finding the leaks and fixing them. That could be easier said than done, considering the shoddy state of much of our infrastructure, including oil and gas pipelines. There is also the fact that some of the leakage is intentional. Many natural gas wells operating in remote areas without electricity use pneumatic controllers that are powered by a flow of gas that spins a turbine before being released into the atmosphere. Annual releases of as much as 50 billion cubic feet have been recorded in recent years. The EPA has begun regulating these releases under the Clean Air Act, which has led to newer designs with lower emissions that are now being deployed. But these emissions could be cut to zero if solar powered electric units with backup batteries were used instead.

But perhaps the biggest omission is any discussion of any of the work that is currently taking place to actually make fracking safer.

What Else Besides Low Cost is Driving the Growth of Solar?

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Last year marked a turning point in the renewable energy field. Growth of 36.5 GW in newly installed solar generating capacity exceeded that of wind power, which grew by 35.5 GW. True, wind power has been backsliding a bit, with investment dropping from $73.8 billion in 2012 to $58.5 billion in 2013. This is primarily due to uncertainty around whether Congress would renew the Production Tax Credit (PTC) at the end of the year. They did not, as it turns out, though prospects for a new bill are looking good right now, after a last minute push through the Senate Finance Committee. Financial data shows that wind power has attracted 17 times more private investment than the tax credits were worth, proving that the technology has wings, as long as the government is willing to level the playing field. Still there was a slight overall decline in renewable investment for the year, dropping from $248.7 billion to $247.6 billion for the year.

The decline could certainly not be blamed on solar, which grew from $79.7 billion to $91.3 billion over the year. Costs, which dropped by 20% in 2012, stabilized in 2013 falling a mere 3% for the year. So that was not the main reason for the growth. Prices are already low enough for many people, even reaching “grid parity” in many areas. In fact, solar module process have fallen so far, that right now, the module price is only around 10% of the overall installation cost. The Solar PTC, which is still in place, is scheduled to expire in 2017, which could slow growth unless market forces become strong enough to carry it forward without help.

Financing has now become the long pole in the tent. This is the area where innovation is needed, and it is already beginning to appear.

Solar City, for example, has pledged to reduce installed cost by 5% per year through 2017, which would, in essence cover the loss of the PRC. Much of that will come from financial innovation.

Honda Unveils Smart Home US for Zero Carbon Living and Mobility

Honda's ultra-efficient, carbon neutral smart home is capable of producing more energy on-site from renewable sources than it consumes annually—and it comes with a specially modified Honda Fit electric vehicle

Solar Desalination Solves Many Problems

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - It seems fitting, with World Water Week just behind us, and with news of the latest, even more dire assessment of the impacts of climate change from the IPCC still making the rounds, that we should share this story which shows one very effective way to connect the dots.

Given the changes coming down the climate pipeline, water is going to be an area of particular  concern, because we are so completely dependent on it to live, and because it’s going to be getting harder to find. Droughts are expected to increase. Snow melt, which often provides water in many regions for most of the year, is accelerating, often providing floods instead of nourishment, and changing rainfall patterns can deprive areas of water that previously had plenty.

Water and energy are inextricably linked. It takes lots of energy to pump water from one place to another and today’s thermal power plants with their cooling towers are among the nation’s largest consumers of water.

For all of these reasons, the announcement of a new solar desalination initiative is welcome news.

WaterFX is using a 377 foot-long solar array to turn brackish water, a mixture of fresh and salt water, into pure distilled water, also producing concentrated mineral salts as a byproduct. Brackish water is commonly found in estuaries, deltas and mangrove swamps, but it is becoming increasingly common as agricultural drainage as freshwater aquifers are depleted. This phenomenon is known as saltwater encroachment. It can also be expected to increase as sea level rises.

The Water FX technology, which has been dubbed “drought buster,” is currently being demonstrated in a $1 million project at the Panoche Water and Drainage District in Firebaugh, which serves the agriculturally rich Central Valley in California. Their Aqua4™ Concentrated Solar Still uses an approach that differs significantly from conventional desalination technology. Not only is it powered by the sun instead of electricity or other means, but it also relies on evaporation rather than reverse osmosis (RO) which is more commonly used. RO has been considered the more cost-effective approach due to the high energy cost associated with evaporation, but with the Concentrated Solar Still, the energy is free and clean. The rate at which fresh water can be recovered from salt or brackish water is also higher, as much as 93%, compared to 50% for RO systems. It also produces commercially desirable concentrated mineral salts as a byproduct.

A larger, commercial version of this plant, will be built later this year on 31 acres of land, capable of producing roughly two million gallons per day.

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