Cleantech

What if the $152 billion to clean up Fukushima were spent on solar instead?

The projected cost for the management of the Fukushima crisis is $152 billion. And that doesn't even include the cost of building and operating the plant in the first place. What if all that scratch had been spent on solar panels instead? It would be amazing, that's what. Read this infographic and weep. (Click here for a larger version. Brought to you by solar buying club 1 Block Off the Grid.)

Wind turbine suffers catastrophic failure; no one is irradiated

Last month, a wind turbine on a North Dakota wind farm suffered a "catastrophic failure" when "oversight" and "human error" — features of energy infrastructure which scientists suggest are unavoidable — led to the enormous turbine falling off its mount. The most recent reports indicate that so far the only casualties are a wide swath of grass and possibly a family of voles. So far no evacuation zone has been declared. There are no threats to sea life, and the fallout from the disaster was not detectable thousands of miles away. Cleanup efforts are in progress, and will not include …

Military miracle turns fuel exhaust into water

Man, if there's two things you don't have enough of when you're deployed in the desert and insurgents keep blowing up your fuel runs, it's beer and Wii. Wait no, it's diesel and water. Luckily researchers have devised a way for soldiers to turn one into the other. Membranes full of tiny tubes condense vehicle and generator exhaust, turning the vapor into liquid water and stripping contaminants along the way. The average soldier needs about seven gallons of water a day — for drinking, but also for cooking and bathing and so forth. This new tech could make that amount …

Renewable Energy

California solar has a sunny week

A rendering of the future Ivanpah solar plant. Photo: BrightSource EnergyIt’s only Tuesday but two milestones have been reached this week in the long march toward a carbon-free future. On Monday, BrightSource Energy became the first solar power plant developer to complete the financing of a large-scale project in two decades. The United States Department of Energy finalized a $1.6 billion loan guarantee BrightSource’s 370-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System solar thermal power plant now under construction in the Mojave Desert in Southern California. (The feds initially had pledged $1.37 billion but threw in another $230 million Monday.) As the …

Google goes all in on solar — to the tune of $168 million

Google has saved you from getting lost, running out of email storage space, and not knowing trivial facts about 90s TV shows. And now it’s going to help save you from a dystopian Mad Max future by investing in solar energy. The company just bet $168 million on solar tech, in the form of the Ivanpah “power tower” plant in the Mojave Desert in California, which should be finished in 2013. Power towers are simple: lay out an array of mirrors — 346,000, in this case — and aim them at a tower full of water. On a sunny day, …

Car parts made out of mushrooms will — wait, what?

Man, is there anything mushrooms can’t do? They make a damn fine fake meat, they make Mario bigger, caterpillars smoke hookahs on them, the whole nine yards. And now, thanks to a company called Ecovative, they can be used to replace styrofoam in some of Earth’s most persistent enemies: packing materials and car parts. The fake foam actually grows itself — Ecovative fills a mold with a mix of mushroom spores and a waste material like oat husks, and over a few days the mushrooms grow and the roots glue themselves together into a strong and lightweight material. Like styrofoam, …

Solar-powered wind turbines not just a joke

April fools led to a bunch of fake posts that made us die a little inside, and at least one that seemed like kind of a good idea: the solar-powered wind turbine. Turns out that the notion of harvesting the maximum amount of energy from the immediate environment is good enough that the combo of solar and wind power actually exists! And the U.S. military is all up in its grill. Because nothing says “we should start producing our own power” like losing yet another fuel convoy to insurgents. Its maker, SkyBuilt systems, just won an Edison Award for the …

Renewable Energy

Can the Keynes notion of ‘spontaneous optimism’ help U.S. investments in clean energy?

This post originally appeared on the Great Energy Challenge blog, in partnership with National Geographic and Planet Forward.  John Maynard Keynes, a giant in modern economic theory, famously wrote, “Most, probably, of our decisions to do something positive, the full consequences of which will be drawn out over many days to come, can only be taken as the result of animal spirits.” This notion, laid out in his seminal book, The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money, was meant to push back on the notion that people behave in an purely economically rational manner, that many of our decisions …

New wind now costs the same as new coal — the tiebreaker is one of them kills you

The radical environmentalists at Bloomberg have declared that the world's best new wind projects now produce electricity that costs about the same as electricity produced from new coal-fired power plants. A lot goes into these calculations, but here's the bottom line: wind costs $65 a megawatt-hour, while power from new coal-fired power plants costs about $68 an hour. Coal would be much cheaper if there were no environmental controls on it. So if you like asthma, poor air quality, and premature death, be sure to vote for whichever politicians are all about rolling back environmental controls.

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