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4 posts from January 2012

Friday, 27 January 2012

Small Scale Wind Power

There is a ‘Windy City’ (Chicago), the ‘Windy Isle’ (Fuerteventura), and from own experience I can vouch for the fact that there is nothing much to the west of New Zealand that would slow down a breeze. Antarctica takes some beating, though. Officially the coldest and driest place on Earth it is also the windiest. Some regions experience an average speed of 40 miles per hour (64km/h) over the year. Imagine the wind chill factor with even summer temperatures struggling to reach a not so balmy 20o Fahrenheit (-6.7o Celsius).

Moving air is a steady feature on our planet, which is why it has been used to generate electricity since the late 19th century. Despite this wind power remained a niche, mainly used on boats to recharge batteries. As a serious contender in the clean-green-energy stakes it has become a main force only over the past 20 to 25 years but goodness me it has made its mark.

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Friday, 20 January 2012

Fuel out of Thin Air – Science Fiction or Carbon-Neutral Future?

An Old Lodger

Nowadays even toddlers know carbon dioxide (CO2). Open a newspaper and you can’t help falling over it. As an Earth dweller it has ancient rights. Scientists reckon it arrived here with comets and other celestial bodies that ploughed into our young planet.

It has had some bad press lately but to see it only in a negative light is unfair, dangerous even. CO2 has many uses. For a start it helped to stabilise a liveable atmosphere at a time when things were too toxic for anything but a few algae. Plants could not survive without it, and neither could anything that depends on them, which includes us. Dough rises because of CO2, it is used to decaffeinate coffee and can extinguish fires. It being a normal component of human blood, too low a concentration is even harmful.

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Friday, 13 January 2012

The Environmental Account of Rail Travel

Dirty Pleasure

‘Murder on the Orient Express’, ‘Some Like it Hot’, ‘The Lady Vanishes’ – some of the greatest movies featured trains as settings for romance, mischief and mystery. No wonder, the confinement of the enclosed space while thundering along adds a sense of inescapability and tension. Accompany that with a steam engine and it’s heaven for those with a fondness for nostalgia.

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Sunday, 08 January 2012

The Weird and Wonderful World of Alternative Energy

Where a new invention promises to be useful, it ought to be tried” This piece of advice by Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States of America, seems to be heeded by a vast number of people in the search for the clean energy that we are all craving. When I do the background research for my articles I come across all kinds of ideas, projects and technologies. Some are well advanced, others are novel and daring, but a few look outright weird.

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