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      Salt, air and bricks: could this be the future of energy storage? / TheGuardian · Monday, 1 April - 07:00

    Start-ups turn to heat over batteries as they aim to industrialise the practice

    Think of battery ingredients and lithium, cadmium and nickel come to mind. Now think again. What about salt, air, bricks, and hand-warmer gel? In our electricity-hungry future they’re set to provide heat to manufacturers who need it, and to help keep the lights on at times when energy is short.

    Energy storage has a dual purpose: it plugs gaps when the wind drops or the sun stops shining, and it allows users to buy cheap off-peak power and use it when they need it.

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      Surge of new oil and gas activity threatens to wreck Paris climate goals / TheGuardian · Thursday, 28 March - 06:00

    World’s fossil-fuel producers on track to nearly quadruple output from newly approved projects by decade’s end, report finds

    The world’s fossil-fuel producers are on track to nearly quadruple the amount of extracted oil and gas from newly approved projects by the end of this decade, with the US leading the way in a surge of activity that threatens to blow apart agreed climate goals, a new report has found.

    There can be no new oil and gas infrastructure if the planet is to avoid careering past 1.5C (2.7F) of global heating, above pre-industrial times, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has previously stated . Breaching this warming threshold, agreed to by governments in the Paris climate agreement, will see ever worsening effects such as heatwaves, floods, drought and more, scientists have warned.

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      Sellafield’s head of information security to step down / TheGuardian · Wednesday, 27 March - 16:21

    Richard Meal is second senior leader to depart following Guardian investigation into failings at UK nuclear waste site

    A former Royal Air Force officer who has led Sellafield’s information security for more than a decade is to leave the vast nuclear waste site in north-west England, it can be revealed.

    Richard Meal, who is chief information security officer at the Cumbrian site, is to leave later this year.

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      Perovskite + silicon solar panels hit efficiencies of over 30% / ArsTechnica · Friday, 7 July, 2023 - 17:58 · 1 minute

    Images of rows of solar panels in a grassy area.

    Enlarge (credit: audioundwerbung )

    In most industrialized countries, solar panels account for only a quarter to a third of the overall cost of building a solar farm. All the other expenses—additional hardware, financing, installation, permitting, etc—make up the bulk of the cost. To make the most of all these other costs, it makes sense to pay a bit more to install efficient panels that convert more of the incoming light into electricity.

    Unfortunately, the cutting edge of silicon panels is already at about 25 percent efficiency, and there's no way to push the material past 29 percent. And there's an immense jump in price between those and the sorts of specialized, hyper-efficient photovoltaic hardware we use in space.

    Those pricey panels have three layers of photovoltaic materials, each tuned to a different wavelength of light. So to hit something in between on the cost/efficiency scale, it makes sense to develop a two-layer device. This week saw some progress in that regard, with two separate reports of two-layer perovskite/silicon solar cells with efficiencies of well above 30 percent. Right now, they don't last long enough to be useful, but they may point the way toward developing better materials.

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      Gulf states’ inactive, uncapped oil and gas wells a $30 billion liability / ArsTechnica · Monday, 8 May, 2023 - 22:03

    Image of an offshore oil platform.

    Enlarge (credit: Tad Denson )

    Oil and gas producers in the US are required by law to seal and cap their wells once they're finished producing. But a new survey of wells along the Gulf of Mexico coast indicates that there are 14,000 wells that aren't producing, are unlikely to be brought back into service, and are uncapped.

    The bad news is that the estimated cost of capping them all would run into the area of $30 billion dollars. The good news is that, in most cases, one of the major oil companies will be responsible for these costs.

    Put a cork in it

    The basic risk of uncapped wells is that material doesn't necessarily stop coming out of them when the equipment the well was connected to is switched off and removed. One obvious potential problem is continued seepage of hydrocarbons. Light material like methane and simple hydrocarbons typically ends up being digested by microbial life, which converts it to carbon dioxide that will typically find its way to the atmosphere. More complicated molecules will be insoluble and remain behind as contamination.

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      Nuclear Waste Borehole Demonstration Center started / ArsTechnica · Friday, 17 March, 2023 - 17:44 · 1 minute

    A diagram of what a waste borehole might look like, with various additional objects included for scale.

    Enlarge / An artist’s impression of a deep borehole for nuclear waste disposal by Sandia National Laboratories in 2012. Red lines show the depth of mined repositories: Onkalo is the Finnish one, and WIPP is the US DOE repository for defense waste in New Mexico. (credit: Sandia National Laboratories)

    Deep Isolation , a company founded in 2016 and headquartered in California, launched a “ Deep Borehole Demonstration Center ” on February 27. It aims to show that disposal of nuclear waste in deep boreholes is a safe and practical alternative to the mined tunnels that make up most of today’s designs for nuclear waste repositories.

    But while the launch named initial board members and published a high-level plan, the startup doesn’t yet have a permanent location, nor does it have the funds secured to complete its planned drilling and testing program.

    Although the idea to use deep boreholes for nuclear waste disposal isn’t new , nobody has yet demonstrated it works. The Deep Borehole Demonstration Center aims to be an end-to-end demonstration at full scale, testing everything: safe handling of waste canisters at the surface, disposal, possible retrieval, and eventual permanent sealing deep underground. It will also rehearse techniques for ensuring that eventual underground leaks will not contaminate the surface environment, even many millennia after disposal.

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      Floating solar panels could provide over a third of global electricity / ArsTechnica · Monday, 13 March, 2023 - 19:04

    A boat passes by rows of floating solar panels.

    Enlarge / Aerial view/solar panel floating in the dam. (credit: SONGPHOL THESAKIT )

    The cost of solar power has dropped dramatically over the past decade, making it the cheapest source of electricity in much of the world. Clearly, that can mean cheaper power. But it also means that we can potentially install panels in places that would otherwise be too expensive and still produce power profitably.

    One of the more intriguing options is to place the panels above artificial bodies of water, either floating or suspended on cables. While more expensive than land-based installs, this creates a win-win : the panels limit the evaporation of water, and the water cools the panels, allowing them to operate more efficiently in warm climates.

    While the potential of floating solar has been examined in a number of places, a group of researchers has now done a global analysis and find that it's huge. Even if we limit installs to a fraction of the surface of existing reservoirs, floating panels could generate nearly 10,000 TeraWatt-hours per year, while keeping over 100 cubic kilometers of water from evaporating.

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      In the US, wind power is getting bigger and better, report says

      Doug Johnson · / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 31 August, 2021 - 12:28 · 1 minute

    A wide angle shot of wind turbines at the foot of a mountain.

    Enlarge (credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images )

    Wind power isn't the largest part of the United States' energy mix, but it grew over the last year, according to the Wind Technologies Market Report . The renewable energy source grew to more than 8 percent of the country's electricity supply—reaching 10 percent in a growing number of states—and saw a whopping $25 billion in investments in what will translate to 16.8 gigawatts of capacity, according to the report.

    Put out by the US Department of Energy, the sizeable report draws upon a variety of data sources for its finding, including government data from the Energy Information Administration, trade data from the US International Trade Commission, and hourly pricing data from the various system operators. “The report itself covers the entire gamut of the US wind industry,” Mark Bolinger, a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and one of the authors of the report, told Ars.

    Bigger is sometimes better

    According to the report, the performance of wind power operations in the US has improved a great deal. We can measure this based on capacity factor, a ratio of the amount of energy a turbine actually produces compared to the amount it could have produced if it ran at its peak constantly. For recently constructed wind power projects, the average capacity factor has now cleared 40 percent. The biggest gains in this area, however, are seen in the US' “wind belt,” a region that receives a large amount of wind, stretching from the Dakotas to Texas.

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      After many delays, Massachusetts’ Vineyard Wind is finally approved

      John Timmer · / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 11 May, 2021 - 18:14

    Image of a row of wind turbines in the ocean.

    Enlarge / An offshore wind farm in the UK. (credit: Dave Hughes )

    After years of delays, the federal government has approved what will be the third offshore wind project in the US—and the largest by far. Vineyard Wind, situated off the coast of Massachusetts, will have a generating capacity of 800 Megawatts, dwarfing Block Island Wind's 30 MW and the output from two test turbines installed in Virginia.

    Vineyard Wind has been approved a number of times but continued to experience delays during the Trump administration, which was openly hostile to renewable energy. But the Biden administration wrapped up an environmental review shortly before announcing a major push to accelerate offshore wind development.

    The final hurdle, passed late Monday , was getting the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to issue an approval for Vineyard Wind's construction and operating plan. With that complete, the Departments of Commerce and Interior announced what they term the "final federal approval" to install 84 offshore turbines. Vineyard Wind will still have to submit paperwork showing that its construction and operation will be consistent with the approved plan; assuming that the operators can manage that, construction can begin.

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