Existing dams could supply electricity for 35 million homes — that’s right, no new dams!

Click to enlargeDanita Delimont/Getty

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the nation could increase its hydroelectric capacity 50 percent by 2050 without building new dams.

Rather, the new capacity would come from upgrading existing hydropower facilities with more efficient technology and by constructing hydropower storage facilities that pump water uphill into reservoirs during off-peak hours, when electricity is cheap. When demand and power prices spike, the water is released downhill through turbines to generate electricity.

Such a strategy could grow hydropower capacity from 101,000 megawatts to 150,000 megawatts by 2050, according to the report.

❝ “If this level of growth is achieved, benefits such as savings of $209 billion from avoided greenhouse gas emissions could be realized, of which $185 billion would be attributable to operation of the existing hydropower fleet,” said a Department of Energy spokesperson. “With this deployment level, more than 35 million average U.S. homes could be powered by hydropower in 2050.”…

…About 2,000 of the country’s dams produce power, supplying 6 percent of electricity demand…But hydropower’s growth has stalled because of aging infrastructure, concerns over environmental impacts on rivers and wildlife, and a rise in alternative renewable sources…

Jim Bradley, vice president of policy and government relations at conservation group American Rivers, said increasing hydropower could be a good thing environmentally.

“Typically, to get approval to upgrade existing dams with more efficient technology means they will have to consider the environmental performance at that site as well,” Bradley said. “So if they’re going to be improving them, they’ll be improving the environmental issues as well.”…

Still, hydropower could be key to ensuring that the power grid operates smoothly as more renewable but intermittent sources of energy come online.

Solar and wind power only produce energy when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. To keep the lights on when solar and wind farms aren’t generating electricity, grid operators rely on carbon-spewing fossil fuel power plants. That’s where pumped storage comes into play: Reservoirs can act as giant batteries, storing energy generated by solar power plants and wind farms.

Nothing new, of course, about hydropower or pumped storage. The engineering has been a lock for centuries. The significant upgrades are in the actual power generation and digital control of both local and interconnected regional systems. None of this is beyond the understanding of builders or consumers.

Only politicians, especially those paid to pimp for fossil fuel, stand in the way.

FDA ban on e-cigarette sales to minors started this week

The US Food and Drug Administration officially started regulating the sale of e-cigarettes on the 8th. Following a ruling that was finalized back in May, the agency now considers e-cigarettes, vape pens, and other related electronic devices “tobacco products,” and will henceforth ban sales to anyone under the age of 18.

Retailers are now banned from selling e-cigarettes to minors.

Going forward, retailers will need to treat e-cigs the same way they treat cigarettes and cigars, verifying the customer’s age against their photo ID. Meanwhile, most manufacturers will need to verify with the FDA that their products don’t carry any additional health risks. The regulations are outlined in the Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which governs the sale of tobacco products to minors.


Italy updates laws to encourage food donations

In Italy, 181 senators voted to pass a bill that seeks to cut 20 percent of the food Italy wastes per year — approximately one million tons. This recovered food will go to the needy, with Italy’s Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina deeming the bill “one of the most beautiful and practical legacies” of the Expo Milano 2015 international exhibition, which…focused on tackling hunger and food waste around the globe.

At present, ministers say that food waste in Italy costs the country approximately $13.4 billion each year — around one percent of the country’s GDP. At least some of this waste stems from complex health and safety regulations which have effectively discouraged businesses and farmers from donating extra food or marginally past-date food to charities or directly to the needy.

And when coupled with the fact that millions of Italians live in poverty, unemployment hovers at approximately 20 percent, and the country’s public debt has increased by 20 percent since 2003, this level of food waste is unacceptable.

…By simplifying the regulatory codes, lifting sanctions to businesses that give away food past its sell-by date, creating tax incentives to donate food, and permitting famers to give away unsold produce without incurring costs, lawmakers hope to change cultural attitudes toward food and its consumption…

Perhaps the most interesting and potentially transformative component of the law is its $1.1 million campaign to promote the use of the “family bag,” or taking home the remainder of one’s meal from a restaurant.

While a relatively common practice in the United States, the notion of taking home extra food from a restaurant — and moreover, the “doggy bag” — is quite rare in Italy. Indeed, some have called the measure the biggest cultural change the bill proposes.

Who knew?

Unfortunately, I never worked for anyone who thought of employee bonuses like this

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As Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title win continues to refuse to sink in, the club’s owner has once again reminded us all that our collective daydream is actually a work of non-fiction.

Indeed, a batch of photos taken outside the Foxes’ King Power stadium appear to show that the owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha has splashed out on a fleet of matching BMWs, which are to be doled out among the squad.

We’re reliably informed that we’re looking at 19 brand new BMW i8s, which retail at around £75,000-80,000 a pop depending on the model…

Dreams for motorheads.