Smokeless Biofuel Saves Lives in Africa

(3BL Media and Just Means) - When I make dinner tonight, I’ll walk over to my stove, turn a few knobs and be eating in twenty minutes or less. Easy, clean, safe and cheap. However, those four adjectives do not describe the way most people, women and children in particular, in developing nations experience cooking.

Emergency Health Care Improved by Innovative App

(3BL Media and Just Means)- "One picture is worth a thousand clinical words," said Crystal Law, MIT Alumna, former EMT and Co-Founder of Twiage.

MIT Competition Finalist Provides A Solution For India’s Farmers

(3BL Media/Justmeans) –  Earlier this year, the Indian government approved a $1.3bn insurance scheme for its farmers, protecting them against crop failures as a way to help put a stop to a spate of suicides. Two hard and devastating successive years of drought have battered the country’s already struggling rural heartland, with farmer suicides in rural areas regularly making news. Since 1995, more than 300,000 farmers have killed themselves.

Toyota Invests $50 Million In Artificial Intelligence

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already part of our everyday lives. We often don’t know it because it’s not obvious. However, the next wave of AI-enabled devices will interact with humans in a far more noticeable way via intelligent robots and autonomous cars.

Solar Continues to Exceed Expectations and Defy Predictions

(3BL Medial/Justmeans) - Recently, I went to an event hosted by one of our local solar providers. The building and those around it were covered with solar panels. As I stood in the parking lot looking up, I thought about how the panels were quietly generating power and I reflected that I may have emitted more carbon in getting there in my car than the building did all day, or perhaps even in several days.

The reality of solar power is surprising, perhaps amazing, to anyone who stops to notice. And given solar’s phenomenal rate of growth more and more people will be noticing, until eventually it will simply become the new normal. According to GTM Research, more solar will be installed globally in the year 2020 than was cumulatively installed in the 40 years preceding it. That will bring the cumulative solar market past the 700 GW mark. That’s well over 10% of the current worldwide capacity, and more than two-thirds of what we generate here in the US. This is consistent with the MIT study that found solar potential in the multi-terawatt range, predicting as much as 25 TW of solar by 2050. That’s about a hundred times what is installed today. So much for those who say that solar will never be more than a tiny portion of our energy mix.

Let’s do a little math. According to Ramez Naam, although it took 40 years for solar to reach 1% of US capacity, the second 1% was added in just 3 years. At that rate of growth, we can expect solar to reach 50% (of today’s demand) in 17 years. Of course, demand will continue to grow, but even if it doubles, just add another three years. But it gets even better than that. Says Naam, the next 1% will take only 2 years. At that rate, it could reach 50% of capacity in just 11 years. (For comparison, the more conservative MIT study showed the installed capacity doubling roughly every five years.)

MIT’s "Future of Solar" Study Says It’s Ready for Prime Time Now

(3Bl Media/Justmeans) - A multi-disciplinary team from the MIT Energy Initiative project produced the “Future of Solar Energy” report as part of a series of studies. The report found that while solar accounts for less than 1% of the American electricity supply today, its contribution in the future is capable of growing to what they call “multi-terawatt scale.” Considering that the global generation capacity today is a little over five terawatts—that is significant. Considering the inherently clean, low-carbon nature of solar power, it clearly is potentially “an essential component of a workable strategy to mitigate climate change risk.” The study addresses a wide array of solar options including solar thermal concentrating  (CSP) plants, which, given their cost and complexity are best suited to utility-scale multi-MW installations, to photovoltaic (PV) systems, which can range from a 10kW residential rooftop system, to a utility scale installation covering many acres. While CSP has thermal storage inherently built in, PV systems have none, requiring batteries, or grid-backup or some other storage means to sustain power in the absence of sunshine.

After a detailed assessment, the 356-page study concludes that there are few obstacles standing in the way. The raw materials and commodities, such as copper, aluminum and glass are plentiful enough to meet the projected peak demand in 2050 of 25 TW. Solar power could, says the report, become a major market driver for these commodities.

While this amount of capacity is a substantial stretch from where the industry is today, there are some existing demonstrations of its potential to scale up. First Solar’s 550 MW Topaz Solar project in California came online last October. The array consists of 9 million solar modules covering an area of 9.5 square miles. Two other plants of equal or greater capacity, Desert Sunlight and Solar Star, are in the works in the US, both of which are already producing substantial amounts of power. Globally, China, India, Germany, France, Ukraine, Thailand and Chile also have operational plants in the 100MW+ range.

Leaks Make Natural Gas Vehicles Less Climate-Friendly Than Diesel

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - A couple of weeks back, we wrote about how natural gas was being used to replace diesel to fuel many large trucks. California-based Clean Energy Fuels Corp. opened several natural gas filling stations in locations stretching from coast to coast. We wrote, “Natural gas has become an attractive option for high-horsepower trucks, because it is less expensive (by up to $1.50/gal), cleaner (23% less GHG emissions), and offers better price stability when compared with conventional diesel. It's also better for the health of drivers and the communities in which they operate. Given the high level of natural gas availability in the US at this time, it also offers the opportunity to reduce dependence on imported oil.“

A recent study, just released, reveals some information that could potentially pour cold water on this approach. The study, which was jointly conducted by scientists at Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), found that there is currently 50% more methane already in the atmosphere than had previously been thought. The researchers have determined that this gas must come from leaks throughout the natural gas supply chain.

After conducting a detailed analysis, weighing both the benefits and costs, the team determined that from a greenhouse gas perspective, the added methane resulting from these leaks, more than offsets the reduction in carbon dioxide resulting from the switch from diesel to natural gas. In other words, according to the study’s lead author, Adam R. Brandt, Assistant Professor of Energy Resources at Stanford, “Switching from diesel to natural gas, that’s not a good policy from a climate perspective.”

The leaks, however, were not severe enough to tip the balance when it came to replacing coal-fired power plants with natural gas. That's because of the enormous amounts of CO2 that comes from coal. Even factoring in the methane leaks, gas-powered plants have half the impact of coal plants.

The Road to Sustainability is Paved with Harder Surfaces

Stiffer pavements could make road travel more sustainable in the US.

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