Algae Biofuel: Is It Viable?

Guest Post

Research into algae biofuels is progressing in leaps and bounds. Many are predicting that algae biofuels will be the way of the future, eventually replacing the fossil fuels that have powered our society for the last few hundred years. But just how viable are algae biofuels, and how soon can we expect them to come into mainstream use?

The need for an alternative to fossil fuels is clear. Burning oil, coal and gas releases harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As well as the pollution problems posed by fossil fuels, we have to face the fact that they will eventually run out.

Biofuels have long been touted as an alternative to fossil fuels, but most biofuel sources pose their own environmental problems. For example, growing corn for bio-ethanol takes up huge amounts of land. As the global population increases, we will need to use the planet’s fertile land to grow enough food to feed everyone, leaving little space for growing fuel crops.

The advantage of algae over other biofuel crops is that it grows on water rather than land. Algae can either be grown on natural bodies of water, such as ponds or lakes, or in industrial facilities where the growth conditions can be strictly controlled. Growing algae is easy – all it needs is sunlight, water and carbon dioxide – and the industrial process of growing, harvesting and extracting oil from algae in a bioreactor can theoretically be extremely efficient. Read more »

The Net-Zero Solar Laneway House by Lanefab

Introducing a new idea and design concept, the Lanefab Design/Build studio has recently completed the first Net-Zero Solar Laneway House from the city of Vancouver. The house was created as an addition to an already existing residential lot. It covers a total area of 1,020 feet and it has become the new home of the owners of the existing main house.

The house has only 1 bedroom and two bathrooms. However, it’s not the size that is important in this project. The new structure is a sustainable home that was built using prefabricated structural insulated panels or SIPs. It benefits from 95% LED lighting and it also includes a 500 gallon in-ground rainwater tank. And in case this wasn’t enough to impress, there’s drain water hear recovery, a hear recovery ventilator, an air source heat pump and an array of 12 solar panels on the roof.

I think it’s fair to say that the house is sustainable from the roof up till under the ground. You might expect such a structure to also have a futuristic design. The fact is that the Net-Zero Solar Laneway House integrates naturally into the surroundings and has a simple and not at all flashy design. It includes 18’ multi-fold doors that create a strong indoor-outdoor connection while also providing passive solar heating and the interior is warm and cozy as expected.


Solar Powered Mobile Phones

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(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

India has the fastest growing market of mobile phones, with the second largest number of subscribers in the world. There are more mobile phones in India than toilets, and phones have reached the poorest sections of the society. The low call rate charges and the cheap price of phones has made it affordable to even people earning less than $2/day (incidentally majority of India around 80% have their incomes capped at that level). However the basic problem of electricity to charge the mobile phones, remains a major hurdle for a vast majority of the population. Even in villages and cities where the power grid is available, power cuts ranging to 20 hours a day is not uncommon. Therefore charging of phones is a big issue.

However solar power which is terrific at providing electricity to off grid communities can solve the above problem as well. Solar powered mobile phones are being introduced by some of the local Indian vendors. These vendors are very good at selling phones with features adapted to the needs of the local population. There are many cheap mobile phones in the Indian Market, with affordable call rates, but the major problem of electricity in rural areas, has disrupted their usage, due to non-availability of any option left for phone charging.

Some of the big Telecom companies that have taken the plunge into Solar Mobile Phone Market are:

Samsung – has come out with its solar mobile phone – Blue Earth, which is a touch phone with a full solar panel on its back, generating enough power to charge the phone. It is not very bulky & is made from recycled plastic bottles. Read more »

Large-scale solar power takes off in Japan

Toshiba is entering Japan’s burgeoning renewables market with one of the country’s largest solar projects, in the tsunami-hit city of Minamisoma in Fukushima Prefecture.

The industrial giant and the city authorities will jointly invest $380 million to build mega solar power plants as part of the reconstruction of the city, which was severely damaged by the earthquake-triggered tsunami in March 2011.

The plants will have a total capacity to generate 100MW electricity.

According to a Toshiba spokesperson in Tokyo, Chimiko Maeda, construction will begin at any moment and the plants are set to be operational in April 2014.

Chimiko declined to reveal how the investment will be split between Toshiba and the municipality.

The two partners are keen to have Japanese firms to set up a special purpose company to operate the solar plants.

Chimiko acknowledged that the 100MW output will be a fraction of the electricity that was generated by nuclear power in Japan before the Fukushima tragedy struck.

Toshiba and Minamisoma are also evaluating the possibility of establishing a next-generation ‘smart community’ focusing on efficient energy use.

Minamisoma, which had a population of 71,000 before the disaster, is a coastal port 20km north of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant. Read more »

Solar Power Generator

Renewable energy is the way to go these days, as we see the rise of hybrid vehicles that grace the roads around the world. Of course, you can always take the greener route that touts solar energy as the panacea of all the world’s energy ills, and here is a solution that you can always place at home in the form of the $2,000 Solar Power Generator. This generator will be powered by the sun, where it is said to provide emergency electricity for just about any home appliance.

It will be very different from other noisy gas or propane generators which deliver noxious fumes, as this particularly advanced model is decent enough to see action in a library, while delivering zero-emission back up power without having to rely on volatile fuels. Should it be fully charged, the 1250-watt battery can power a refrigerator for up to four days, a TV for 35 hours, or a laptop for up to 30 hours – something tells me that during a power brownout or blackout, you might want to skip the TV and keep your food fresh instead.

There is an integrated LCD panel that displays the wattage coming into and going out of the generator, while showing the remaining amount of juice left in the generator’s battery. There are eight solar panels which are hooked up to the generator simultaneously in order to accelerate recharging or provide an endless source of juice to a refrigerator or any appliance.