Fireworks are a centerpiece in the celebration of the fourth of July. All over the country, we naively enjoy these beautiful, dazzling illuminations, gallantly exploding in front of constellation-speckled backdrops, symbolizing our freedom from the British. What we often don’t think about while we take in the piro-spectacular, is the copious amount of toxic chemicals emitted into the environment.
An article published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology in 2009 found that, following a fireworks display, the amount of perchlorate in nearby bodies of water could increase by anywhere from 24 to 1,068 times the amount present before the fireworks, and that it takes 20 to 80 days for the chemical levels to subside.
Fortunately, researchers are developing a new generation of fireworks that can shine just as brightly without negatively impacting the environment or human health. In an article in Chemical & Engineering News, a publication of the American Chemical Society, Bethany Halford says these nitrogen-rich formulas use fewer color-producing chemicals, dramatically cutting down on the amount of heavy metals used and lowering their potentially toxic effects.
Read more from greenbiz.com
In this current recession, everyone is looking for ways to save money. Adam Boesel, the owner of The Green Microgym in Portland, Or., has found a way to shave operating costs while also giving his clients a workout.
The clever proprietor has doctored up the fitness club’s spin bikes with weed whacker motors and truck alternators so that patrons can create energy to help power the 2,800-foot space.
The opening of The Green Microgym coincides with the announcement of M2E’s kinetic charger, which can generate energy from motion. The kinetic energy system uses the Faraday Principle, which states that the movement of a conductor through a magnetic field produces voltage in the conductor proportional to the speed of the movement. In this case, the conductor is a wire coil.
The system uses a magnet that moves against the coil every time the charger moves, generating a charge that is captured in a capacitor. A logic circuit takes the charge to the built-in Li-Ion cell, where it is stored until use.
Boesel expects patrons to power only a quarter of the gym’s power at first, but after he equips the elliptical trainers with similar motors, he hopes that the energy supply will become entirely self-sufficient.
Everybody knows about Wind and Solar Power as alternative energy, but there is a new kid on the block: Geothermal Power.
When a historic seminary in the heart of Manhattan went searching for a way to cut its energy costs in an environmentally friendly way, it didn’t turn to the heavens for sun or wind power but sought salvation in an unlikely direction for a religious institution. It looked underground.
Tapping the energy stored in the Earth, The General Theological Seminary plans to construct the largest geothermal project on the East Coast; large enough to supply water to heat and cool the seminary’s 275,000 square feet of space.
Currently, geothermal power accounts for only half a percent of the nation’s energy generation, but that is likely to double in the next few years with 103 new plants under construction. The Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that if all the heat trapped up to 2 miles under the U.S. were tapped, it could generate enough electricity to meet all of the country’s power needs for 30,000 years.
Read more in the Chicago Tribune online.
The Washington Nationals new baseball stadium, built by the District of Columbia, is the first big-league ballpark to meet standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council. It will have energy-efficient lighting, ultra low-flow lavatory faucets, low-flush toilets, recycling bins, a green roof, bike racks and preferential parking for high-mileage cars.
The Cleveland Indians installed solar panels last summer at their ballpark and the Boston Red Sox quickly followed suit at Fenway Park. The Oakland A’s now sell beer in cups made entirely of biodegradable corn starch, while the Seattle Mariners recycle food waste as well as paper and plastic containers. Even the Pittsburgh Pirates’ scouts drive flex-fuel cars.
“By getting America’s pastime to embrace environmentalism, we can move beyond the debates about left, right and politics,” says Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a longtime Mets fan and manager of his son’s little league team. Hershkowitz is especially hopeful that baseball’s green drive will influence fans too. “There’s nothing comparable to the brand loyalty that professional sports teams generate.”
Read more at money.cnn.com.
Many people think of Google Inc. as just a search company, but now it can add renewable energy investor to its resume. Google is all about changing the world in a positive way, according to CEO Eric Schmidt, who has proposed a plan to help provide the world with renewable energy.
Google plans to put clean energy at the heart of the U.S. energy mix, promoting energy efficiency, a massive renewable-energy push to replace coal, and an accelerated rollout of plug-in cars.
The plan sets a target date of 2030 to get Power Companies and Utilities totally off carbon fuels, currently the most common power source, by calling for heavy increases in wind and solar power, with wind power being the closest thing to a free substitute for coal. Unfortunately, most populated areas are temperate and not very windy, so part of the challenge is finding the correct grid technology to bring energy to customers.
Google plans on investing $3.5 trillion in the project over the next 22 years, but expects to generate a cost basis savings of $4.4 trillion based on the right assumptions and investments.
If just 0.3% of the Sahara Desert was used as a concentrating solar plant, it would produce enough clean power to provide all of Europe with clean renewable energy. That is why 20 German companies are gathering next month to discuss plans and investments to carry out a 400 billion-Euro project proposed by the Desertec Foundation, to erect 100 GW of concentrating solar power plants throughout North Africa.
Instead of constructing the entire project in just one location, Desertec plans to scatter the plants throughout several politically stable countries. The power generated would be transported over high-voltage DC lines across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, where it would supply 15% of the energy demand.
Along with providing clean energy, this project also aims at providing fresh drinking water and farming the desolate desert region by building desalination plants that will use concentrated solar power to provide energy and waste heat to create freshwater from seawater.
Even though the project is still 10-15 years away from breaking ground, several major players are getting involved.
Read more at inhabitat.com.
A new report issued by the United States Global Change Research Program, a joint venture of 13 federal agencies and the White House, suggests that global warming will become more severe in the coming years, despite actions taken to date.
“Observations show that warming of the climate system is now unequivocal. The global warming observed over the past 50 years is due primarily
to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases.” Key findings:
1. Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.
2. Climate changes are underway in the United States and are projected to grow.
3. Widespread climate-related impacts are occurring now and are expected to increase.
4. Climate change will stress water resources.
5. Crop and livestock production will be increasingly challenged.
6. Coastal areas are at increasing risk from sea-level rise and storm surge.
7. Threats to human health will increase.
8. Climate change will interact with many social and environmental stresses.
9. Rapid, irreversible, and unanticipated changes are likely as a result of crossing key thresholds.
10. Future climate change and its impacts depend on choices made today.
Read John Broder’s piece in the NY Times.