Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
Locally manufactured wind generator in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan
Oil-rich Kazakhstan will spend 1 percent of annual output every year until 2050 to increase power generation from greener sources, a senior official said, cutting its dependence on coal far faster than some of the world’s big polluters.
The Central Asian country, the world’s ninth largest by area but populated by just 17 million people, holds about 3 percent of the global recoverable oil reserves. However, its fast, oil-propelled growth hinges on high oil prices.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev, a former steelworker who has ruled for more than two decades, has signed off on a state program on developing sources of renewable energy.
“According to our estimates, total investments – state and private – needed to implement this program will amount annually to an average of $3.2 billion in the period until 2050, or roughly 1 percent of GDP,” Environmental Protection Minister Nurlan Kapparov told a news briefing…
“This is not such a high price for the clean air, for the health of our children and the preservation of ecological systems, as well as for our economy’s resilience to external shocks which assume more threatening proportions each year.”
Coal-fired power stations, which heavily pollute the atmosphere, currently account for around 80 percent of Kazakhstan’s electricity generation.
Kapparov said, provided domestic natural gas prices were high, Kazakhstan’s “energy basket” by 2030 would be made up of 11 percent generated by wind and the sun, 8 percent by nuclear power, 10 percent by hydro power, 21 percent by gas and 49 percent by coal…
The “green revolution” can add annually up to 3 percent of GDP to Kazakhstan’s current economic growth in the period until 2050, Kapparov said, and create up to 600,000 new jobs.
Looking forward is rarely part of the skill set of politicians. That seems to be a global character trait – with a few exceptions.
It’s always good news for the rest of the planet, as well, when a small, unique portion of the world’s economic machinery decides to include sensible environmental goals into their planning.
In the United States, we’d be improving the odds if we even considered planning.
The trend of Chinese conglomerates snapping up venture capital-backed cleantech startups on the cheap continues. This week a subsidiary of Chinese LED and solar manufacturing company San’an Optoelectronics announced that it has acquired LED startup: Luminus Devices. According to LED News (hat tip Greentech Media) the deal was done for $22 million…
All in all it wasn’t the biggest loss investors have seen during this trend of Chinese companies buying up struggling cleantech assets. Solar startup Miasole was sold to Chinese clean power company Hanergy for $30 million, after having raised between $400 million and $500 million over its lifetime. Chinese auto tech giant Wanxiang bought up battery maker A123 Systems out of its bankruptcy, made a barebones offer for electric car company Fisker Automotive, and has made equity investments in other cleantech startups as well.
Chinese companies flush with cash have enough capital to continue to invest in some of these infrastructure-heavy innovations that are requiring longer timelines and more money than the venture capital community expected. At the same time, the Chinese government has been creating markets for energy efficient and clean power technologies through strong incentives — it’s done this with LEDs, electric cars and solar technology.
Other cleantech startups are finding sunnier opportunities partnering with Chinese companies on manufacturing. Five-year-old EcoMotors, which is backed by Bill Gates and Khosla Ventures, is finally commercializing its efficient engine technology with a $200 million plant being built by Chinese auto giant Zhongding Power.
If all you know about China’s economy comes from Cold Warriors, if all you know about global economics is “Us versus Them” – you may as well skip this little news article from Katie Fehrenbacher and GigaOm.
If you have an interest in nations and enterprises experimenting in commercial partnerships – especially when our government is cowed by conservatives prating about the Red Peril of the East – then you should read on. In fact, click the link at the top of the original and wander through more of Katie’s journalism. It’s all focused on the nitty-gritty of getting Clean and Green Technology off the ground and into reality.
A jet smashed into a hanger at Chino Airport on Thursday evening while mechanics were conducting an engine run-up test, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said…
The Challenger aircraft was chocked up on a ramp area and jumped the chocks…
It was a controversial move when a health insurer began requiring people who were obese to literally pay the price of not doing anything about their weight – but it worked, a new study finds.
When people had to choose between paying up to 20 percent more for health insurance or exercising more, the majority of enrollees met fitness goals one step at a time via an Internet-tracked walking program, according to a joint study by the University of Michigan Health System and Stanford University.
Researchers evaluated a group of people insured by Blue Care Network who were enrolled in a pedometer-based program as a requirement to receive insurance discounts. After one year, nearly 97 percent of the enrollees had met or exceeded the average goal of 5,000 steps a day – including the most resistant participants who disagreed with the financial incentives and found the program “coercive.”
“There are ethical debates around the idea of forcing someone to be personally responsible for health care costs related to not exercising, but we expect to see more of these approaches to financially motivate healthier behaviors,” says senior author Caroline R. Richardson, M.D…
“Our evaluation of Blue Care’s incentivized program showed a surprisingly high rate of people who enrolled in the Internet-mediated walking program and stuck with it – even among those who were initially hostile to the idea. Wellness interventions like this clearly hold significant promise for encouraging physical activity among adults who are obese…”
For some families, the out-of-pocket cost of failing to meet the new criteria in one of the wellness programs was nearly $2,000 more per year. Those with medical conditions were exempt if they had waivers from their doctors.
Nearly half of the 12,102 enrollees who met criteria for a wellness program picked pedometer-based WalkingSpree, and the study’s authors evaluated their success. The 6,548 participants were required to reach an average of 5,000 daily steps in each three month period, or 450,000 steps a quarter, to remain eligible for enhanced benefits. Just 3 percent failed to do so.
Among users who responded to a satisfaction survey about the program, a third were unhappy with the financial incentives because they felt the incentives were coercive. The remaining two-thirds of respondents, however, liked the program…
“Our findings suggest that incentivized wellness programs are acceptable to many individuals and that these programs encourage healthy behaviors,” says lead author Donna Zulman, M.D…
May as well consider this, folks. If such plans continue to produce successes – better health and reduced expenses – it is going to be coming to wherever you work. I have kin who are already in such a program and they love it. They save money and get healthier.
William Dichtel and Deepti Gopalakrishnan
Detecting bombs in places such as airports could be getting easier, thanks to a new fluorescing polymer. While you might expect the material to glow in the presence of explosives, they actually cause it to stop glowing.
The polymer was developed at Cornell University by chemist William Dichtel and his graduate student, Deepti Gopalakrishnan.
Ordinarily, its random cross-linked structure lets it absorb light, transport the energy through itself, and ultimately release that energy back out as light. Should the energy meet up with even a single molecule of explosive as it moves through the polymer, however, it will be released as heat instead of light. This causes the polymer to promptly cease fluorescing.
It is now hoped that the polymer could be incorporated into low-cost hand-held sensors, which could be used with or instead of bomb-sniffing dogs.
This is definitely better than using X-Rays to peer beneath my underwear.
Damaged – and repairable
In a residential neighborhood near the center of a monster tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma last month, two partially damaged houses stand like an island among others flattened by the storm.
The walls and roofs of the buildings in a new housing development called Featherstone Addition are still upright while there is nothing left but a concrete foundation where other homes once stood nearby.
The two homes were not completely spared but are salvageable, according to David Prevatt, a civil engineer who saw them when he surveyed the damage after Moore took a direct hit from an EF5 tornado, the strongest rating.
He is convinced that the two houses survived because they were built stronger than most in Oklahoma and the rest of “tornado alley” – the region stretching from Texas to Iowa that accounts for roughly a fourth of all U.S. tornadoes.
“This notion that we cannot engineer buildings economically to withstand tornado loads is a fallacy,” said Prevatt, who has studied damage from hurricanes and the devastating tornadoes in 2011 in Joplin, Missouri and Tuscaloosa, Alabama…
Damage costs are rising because of increased population density, even in mostly rural states such as Oklahoma, which has seen substantial urban sprawl in the last decade, said Greg Carbin, Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
Another important reason that has received less attention, is that most homes in tornado alley are not built to withstand even a modest tornado.
The result is that residents of tornado alley, insurance companies and the U.S. government are footing a mounting bill from damage that could be limited with better construction, according to several engineers, meteorologists and consumer advocates interviewed by Reuters.
“We have to stop this cycle of a storm coming along destroying things and we build them back the same,” said Leslie Chapman-Henderson, chief executive of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, a consumer group. “That is the official definition of insanity.”
Oklahoma should follow the example of Florida after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and adopt a tougher building code to reduce damage in future, said Prevatt, Assistant Professor of Civil and Coastal Engineering at the University of Florida.
RTFA for a boatload of detailed information and analysis. Useful stuff – in a society that responds to thoughtful, scientific study. Unfortunately, that definition doesn’t especially include the United States.
International building codes, the standards for safety and sustenance, generally are about a decade ahead of the United States. Any progressive moves on the world stage take at least that long before consideration gets on the US agenda – Congress and the corporations supplying building materials to American homebuilders. The National Association of Home Builders starts work on analysis and understanding immediately if not sooner – but, everyone in the NAHB knows that the adoption process will be slower than the average tortoise.
Now, we could make regional changes based on what Florida and the hurricane states have learned. That’s still too easy for the States’ Rights crowd. You have to understand that a minor percentage of residents in Tornado Alley – and especially their favorite conservative politicians – still hate the idea of building standards, code ordinances and zoning.
In our increasingly connected world, isn’t it about time the humble street sign received a high-tech upgrade? That’s certainly the thinking behind Points, the newest project from Breakfast, a New York-based design group. Points is an internet-connected directional sign that pulls data from social media and spins its arms up to 360 degrees to aim in the direction of a location or event.
At a glance, Points looks like any other directional sign, with three arrows pointing toward designated spots. Once a person makes a selection on the menu near its base though, the signs rotate toward the three nearest places that match the chosen criteria. At the same time, the LED displays on each one will change to show the name of the location along with pertinent information…
Points connects to the internet via Wi-Fi or Ethernet to pull current information from a wide range of sources, including Twitter, Foursquare, RSS feeds, and transportation APIs. Using this data, the system can determine if any special events are happening nearby, find the most popular landmarks for tourists, or pick out the highest rated restaurants and stores in the area…
The design team built a custom system of gears and motors that could fit inside a slim pole and provide smooth motion to each arm. The sign uses rotary electrical interfaces to move the arms 360 degrees in either direction without tangling any wires…Each sign contains an array of 16,000 LEDs to display locations and info…
For now though, anyone can visit the Points official website and send a tweet to a prototype to watch it spin toward their location in real-time.
Tourist-centered areas are a natural for something like this. I will pass this post along to the Santa Fe City Council. Got to be a hit!
BTW, I tried the livestream via Twitter and it worked perfectly. Took a minute or two, be patient.