A new pre-fab data center will soon be heading to Iceland where it will become the world's first to achieve zero carbon status. The IT company Colt will build the center's 37 components and then ship them off to Iceland where they will be assembled.
The ability for this data center to operate without carbon emissions has everything to do with its placement in Iceland. The center will be powered exclusively by geothermal and hydroelectric sources and cooling will be taken care of by using the cold Iceland air.
The 500 square meter facility will only take four months to complete. It will contain the servers of UK data hosting company Verne. The facility will be able to supply 100 MW of computer load at any time and the capacity will be expanded as demand grows.
Scientists at the Carnegie Institution's Global Ecology department have published a study that found that evaporation from trees has a cooling effect on the climate.
Because water vapor is known to act as a greenhouse gas, scientists were unsure what role evaporation played, but it turns out that evaporation from trees causes low-level clouds to form in the atmosphere, which reflect the sun's rays. The scientists created models that showed that not only did cooling occur locally (which was already known), but that the effect was a global one where tree evaporation created more low-level clouds around the world.
Trees have proven themselves to be great climate regulators and this new finding just adds to the list of reasons to preserve our forests and plant new trees.
Harvard applied physics professor David Keith is building a machine that can suck carbon dioxide from the air. Keith has started a company called Carbon Engineering that has attracted venture capitalists that see a future for this technology.
The machine uses a three-step process to filter the air and separate and sequester the carbon dioxide. First, a fan sucks air into the machine where it enters a 31-foot-long chamber filled with wavy plastic material. A sodium hydroxide solution runs down that plastic and reacts with the CO2 to pull it out of the air and turn it into carbonate solids. Those solids then go into a 900 degree Celsius kiln where they're broken down and become a stream of pure CO2. That pure CO2 is then capture where it can go on to be stored underground or used for other purposes.
The machine reuses ash left behind in the kiln to regenerate the sodium hydroxide solution and the process continues.
Of course the removal of the CO2 from the air is never the tricky part of these projects, rather it's what is done with the captured CO2 that leaves people feeling unsure. The permanence of underground storage is still untested.
But the potential for the technology has generated some interest. Bill Gates and other billionaire investors have given money to Keith's project and Keith himself hopes that it can be scaled up to a size that could actually make a positive impact on the environment.
The Prius line is expanding rapidly these days. Toyota will begin selling the bigger and roomier Prius v next month in the U.S., opening up their popular hybrid franchise to those who need to carry a bit more with them on the road.
The Prius v looks a lot like the regular Prius except for the extended cargo space in the rear. According to Toyota, the vehicle will offer more storage space than 80 percent of all small SUVs -- a nice 34.3 cubic feet of it.
The Prius v will use the same hybrid drivetrain as the regular Prius. As for mileage, the larger size does take down the fuel efficiency a bit. The Prius v is rated for 44 mpg city and 40 mpg highway with a rating of 42 mpg combined. The regular Prius has a combined rating of 50 mpg.
For a nice-sized hybrid, the price is actually pretty affordable. The car comes in three levels ranging from $26,400 to $29,990.
The hydrogen energy station is located next to a wastewater treatment facility, and biogas generated from that facility provides the feedstock for the system. The biogas is converted into hydrgen which is then available for refueling hydrogen vehicles as well as for a hydrogen fuel cell from FuelCell Energy which generates 250 kilowatts of electricity for the wastewater plant. Approximately 25 vehicles per day can be refueled from this station, in addition to the electrical power generated.
Canada's federal Geological Survey Commission has released a report stating that the country's geothermal resources are so vast that they could power the country one million times over.
Heavy concentrations of geothermal stores near the surface in the Northern and Western parts of Canada (including British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon and Northwest Territories) are the stars of the new report, though resources exist across the country. A team of scientists from the agency said that as little as 100 projects could completely power the country while generating very few greenhouse gas emissions.
Geothermal has its downsides, like high upfront costs and long construction times because of the tricky nature of drilling miles into the earth, but once a geothermal plant is operational, the energy is practically unlimited and -- unlike wind and solar -- constant.
Countries like Iceland, Indonesia and St. Lucia have started relying on and even exporting energy from their large geothermal resources. Canada could easily be next.
Toyota has unveiled a new plug-in version of its hybrid Prius for the 2012 model year. Although the aftermarket has been offering conversion kits to allow it, and Toyota's competitors have come out with a variety of plug-inelectric vehicles and hybrids, only now is Toyota producing a hybrid vehicle that can be recharged by plugging it in.
Almost since it was first released, Toyota has been working on numerous new versions of its iconic Prius, but it has taken until recently for any of these to reach the public. We've seen concepts for other Prius options, and Toyota is now bringing these to the market. In addition to the new plug-in version, there is also the original Prius, and the larger Prius v. Also, Toyota will also be bringing out another version called the Prius c in 2012.
The plug-in Prius now uses lithium ion batteries, rather than the nickel metal-hydride batteries in earlier models. The 4.4 kWh battery will give the new Prius a range of 15 miles at 62 miles per hour (about 24 km at 100 kph) in electric-only drive*. The car "is expected to achieve a manufacturer-estimated 87 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) in combined driving and 49 MPG in hybrid mode."
Bacteria may be a key in containing radioactive contamination and other environmental pollutants. A naturally occurring bacteria found in soil called Geobacter has been known to be useful in contaminated soil cleanup, but the process by which it prevents the spread of pollutants has not been known until the work of Gemma Reguera and her team of researchers at Michigan State University identified how the the bacteria concentrates contaminants.
The bacteria have nanowire structures called pili, which are like fine hair on the exterior of the bacterial cells. In a toxic waste site contaminated with uranium, these nanowires essentially become electroplated by the uranium. This process contains it and renders it insoluble, so that it cannot be dissolved and taken up by groundwater.
“This tiny microorganism can play a major role in cleaning up polluted sites around the world,” Reguera says. “Uranium contamination can occur at any step in the cycle of production of nuclear fuel – from mining, processing and enrichment to accidental spills from the nuclear plant. Contamination can spread fast and stay in the environment for many, many years. However, you can stimulate the natural Geobacter community of the soil and groundwater, or feed the improved strains in the environment. The bacteria will oxidize and precipitate the uranium.”
The pili also serve to protect the bacteria from the uranium, which is toxic, by keeping it outside the cell. The researchers are now working to develop strains of Geobacter with increased pili production to make it more effective for this type of remediation work.
As wind energy developers continue to develop new locations, there are many instances where site access is particularly difficult because of swampy conditions, or the location is in a tidal zone, or is otherwise difficult for more conventional access. To make access to these sites possible, Hovertrans Solutions Pvt. Ltd. has a vessel called a hoverbarge.
The hoverbarge is a standard marine barge (which means that it will float even if it is not powered) which is further equipped with fans and skirts to perform as a hovercraft. The hoverbarge is self-propelled, and has a cargo capacity of up to 50 tonnes and an overall deck area of 24 meters by 7 meters (approximately 78.75 feet by 23 feet). The modular construction of the hoverbarge makes it possible to dismantle the vessel and ship it to remote locations, and then be re-assembled for operation.
The hoverbarge produces very little ground pressure, making it useful for construction with minimal adverse impact on a site. Barge based construction can eliminate the need to construct long roads and work pads for heavy equipment in areas with difficult ground conditions.
Last year, we heard that New York City was considering a huge bike sharing program and now it's becoming a reality. New details have been released about the program and it's just as big as had been hoped. There will be about 600 stations with 10,000 bikes and the program could be up and running by next summer.
The stations will be widespread, covering the Upper East and West sides all the way down to the tip of Manhattan and then across the East River into Brooklyn as far as Greenpoint and Crown Heights.
The city has chosen Alta Bike Share to install and operate the system. Alta operates bike share programs in Washington, D.C., Boston and Portland, but the New York system will dwarf those systems by a few thousand bikes, making it the largest in the country. Above is a video featuring the Capital Bikeshare program in D.C.
The program will allow for 24-hour, multi-day or annual subscriptions as well as shorter rentals charged by the half-hour. Monthly subscriptions will be cheaper than a monthly MetroCard.
Bike share programs have had varying degrees of success around the world, but we hope that this ambitious system in a city that loves alternative forms of transportation will catch on quickly.
A new study done by an engineering professor at Stanford University has found that the energy efficiency of computers doubles roughly every 18 months, and has done so since the very first general purpose computer, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) that was built in 1956.
With help from Intel and Microsoft, Professor Jonathan Koomey was able to gather information about computing devices from 1956 until now and with this new finding, Koomey is revising and improving Moore's law -- the observation that computer processing power doubles every 18 months. Fortunately, the things that contribute to that power improvement (reducing component size, capacitance and communication time between them) also increase energy efficiency.
This finding has great implications for the future of computers and battery-powered devices. As we constantly increase the performance power of computers and gadgets, we'll be improving their energy efficiency as well -- a much needed trend as we become more reliant on our portable devices.
Also, theoretically, we're far from the limit of how much electricity we can save. In 1985, physicists projected that we could improve computer energy efficiency by a factor of 100 billion and since then we've only hit a factor of about 40,000.