Solar energy production is growing. It’s getting better, cheaper, and looking like a stronger contender in alternative energy solutions for nations around the world.
If there’s one major hinderance to utilizing solar panels, however, it’s that they require large flat surfaces in order to fully function and harness enough energy to justify their initial investment.
In a place like Japan, that’s a real challenge. The small, mountainous, and heavily populated nation uses a lot of energy, much of which it has to import.
It’s not the most sustainable model, not only in terms of carbon, but also economics. That doesn’t mean Japan is ready to give up on solar as a renewable energy solution. If they can’t easily install panels on land, why not do so on water?
Image Source: Popular Mechanics
Buoyant And Powerful
That’s the basis of a new project for the Koycera Corporation and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation. The two companies have now begun work on what is said to be the world’s most productive floating solar installation.
To be comprised of 15,000 individual solar modules, the installation will float in the reservoir of the Yamakura Dam in the Chiba Prefecture just outside Tokyo. Expected to be operation in 2018, the floating solar farm will cover 180,000 square meters and have capacity of 13.7 megawatts.
The Answer To A Major Energy Need?
The new solar resource is hoped to provide a major supplement to Japan’s present energy production problem. As of early 2015, the nation was only producing 9% of the energy it uses, a result of very limited indigenous coal and gas resources and tenuous nuclear power production in recent years.
Following the devastating Fukushima plant incident of 2011, all nuclear power stations were taken offline and only some have been brought back on. Japan gets the vast majority of its energy from imports of liquefied natural gas, and is currently the world’s biggest customer of that resource.
Image Source: BBC News
More Floating Farms In The Future?
Renewable energy technologies could help Japan gain a little more energy independence, but they’re not the only nation making big investments in innovative solar panel installations.
The United Kingdom started construction on Europe’s largest floating solar farm this past fall. With their ease of assembly compared to ground installations, perhaps we’ll see more floating solar panels put to use in the growing number of places where space may be limited but energy needs are pressing.
What are your thoughts on this approach to sustainable energy?
Geothermal Inspires The World To Dig Deep For Clean Energy
Geothermal energy systems can quietly make power or heat while other renewable energy sources struggle. The wind does not need to blow, nor the sun shine. Geothermal power plants and residential geothermal heat pumps harvest heat generated by the Earth’s core. With so many advantages, nations around the world are breaking ground on new plants, and as a result, geothermal has captured the attention of the oil and gas industry.
Endless Energy Underground
The planet contains decaying radioactive particles that produce heat deep underground. The Earth’s core maintains a temperature of 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Theoretically, if humanity could collect even 0.1% of that energy, civilization could have endless power for 2 million years.
Global Interest In Geothermal On The Rise
Geothermal power plants can operate 24/7 and cause very few harmful effects on the environment. Compared to fossil fuel power plants, geothermal plants can boast 99% less CO2 emissions and 97% less sulfur compound emissions.
Geothermal’s positive features have presented nations around the world with a reliable clean energy option. India has launched its first major geothermal project in Ladakh to take advantage of an area of naturally occurring geysers. The third stage of the project will result in a 250 MW plant that will support the region’s goal of carbon-neutral energy generation. Similarly, workers in New Zealand will soon break ground on a 150 MW plant.
New Work For Oil And Gas Drillers
Drilling the wells required for geothermal plants is a perfect job for oil and gas companies that have mastered drilling technology. Instead of drilling for fossil fuels, their resources could drill for the Earth’s heat. Diminishing returns on oil and gas investments have made geothermal increasingly attractive to energy executives looking for new opportunities. For this reason, geothermal plant building could offset concerns about lost jobs in legacy energy sectors.
With geothermal primed to expand globally, what other industries do you expect to participate in plant construction and operation?
Is Sugarcane A Biofuel Solution For Greener Jet Fuel?
For as much as people complain about air travel, demand for this mode of transportation is on a rapid rise, and with the increased reliance on aviation comes a boost in greenhouse gas emissions and tougher challenges to respond to global price fluctuations in oil. This is why some innovators are looking for alternative, plant-based sources to create jet fuel. Sugarcane may be one of the more viable options according to researchers from the University of Illinois.
Image Source: Wikimedia
A Better Source Of Biodiesel And Ethanol
In their recently published study, Deepak Kumar, Stephen P. Long, and Vijay Singh of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign state that sugarcane could be engineered to yield significant quantities of biofuel that could then be used to power aircraft. While other biofuels, including camelina and algae, have successfully gotten test flights off the ground, Kumar, Long, and Singah see sugarcane as a better source of biodiesel and ethanol, provided the cane’s natural oil production could be increased through engineering.
Image Source: Wikimedia
Engineering Crops For Reduced Emissions
Currently the researchers are working to develop a sugarcane crop that’s capable of producing 20 percent oil—which is a major jump from the 0.05 percent the plant produces organically. The increase in natural oil production would be critical to its use as a reliable source for jet fuel. The engineered sugarcane, called lipidcane, would offer five times the profit per acre compared to soybeans, according to the researchers. They also state that 23 million acres devoted to the production of lipidcane could fulfill 65 percent of the U.S. jet fuel demand, which would contribute to the reduction of global carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 5.6 percent. This all depends on whether the research team can successfully engineer a variety of sugarcane that reliably produces the level of oil needed to make the plant a viable fuel source, though they have made progress with a lipidcane that produces 12 percent oil within its leaves.
Will the fuel that takes us to the skies be rooted sugarcane crops? What do you think of this type of biofuel development? Comment and share your thoughts.
Racing With The Sun At The 30th Anniversary World Solar Challenge
Engineering teams from around the world recently gathered at Australia’s biannual World Solar Challenge to compete in a race from Darwin to Adelaide in cars powered by the sun. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the event and with it came some notable challenges and developments.
Image Source: Digital Trends
Tough Standards On Unique Designs
With 42 competing cars from 40 countries, this most recent World Solar Challenge featured an array of unique designs. This year also provided challengers with tougher standards for their racers by requiring a smaller solar collection area.
Speed From The Sun And Aerodynamics Alone
The cars themselves are unlike most vehicles you’d ever see on a race track. Most cars feature a tiny space for the driver and a large flat surface designed to collect the maximum amount of solar energy, while maintaining an aerodynamic form. As each entry must be powered by solar energy alone, design is key to speed—and racers are able to reach over 60 MPH along the 1,860 mile track running through the Australian outback.
A Test For Design And Technology
Being first to cross the finish line is not the only goal of the challengers; the race is as much about research and development in sustainable vehicle design and technology. The Challenger class puts speed to the test, while the Cruiser category is devoted to transportation practicality, and the Adventure class is all about exploring submissions that offer merit regardless of speed and design.
Image Source: Hi Tech Beacon
A Focus On Reliability
The U.S.’s own submission from Stanford University has been designed with a focus on reliability and safe handling over speed. Many eyes are on the Dutch Nuon Solar Team’s Nuna9 car, which has been modified to a new level of aerodynamics. Currently, the time to beat belongs to the Tokai University team from Japan which made the more than 1,800 mile journey in 29 hours and 49 minutes.
What are your thoughts on this competition and the solar power developments that could come out of it? Comment and tell us what you think.
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