Sunday, 18 December 2011

Tidal Power

My New Scientist Magazine did not arrive on Friday. What to do for bedtime reading I thought? Perhaps an old copy? Well I did find an old copy under the bed, and it had some interesting stuff in it about tidal energy.

Recently there has been talk of the Severn Estuary project being looked at again. Part of the problem with this could be environmental.
The bit in the New Scientist talked about the strong tides around the Orkney Islands, which has led the European Union-funded European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) to use Orkneys' waters as the world's largest test bed for a renewable energy source. The new turbine designs being tested here appear to be surviving the Scottish swells, and should be capable of taming one of the world's most promising sources of renewable energy. If we can use this technology to harness the powerhouses of Ocean currents, tidal power could help smash all previous predictions of how much energy the oceans can provide.The power can be environmentally friendly as well.

Neil Kermode, who manages EMEC says tidal turbines have taken the lead in the race to develop marine energy sources, surging past both barrages and wave power.
Back in May, an article in the IET E&T magazine recons that the growing marine sector in the UK could boost the economy by up to £76bn by 2050 and also generate over 68,000 jobs, if the country builds on its existing lead and successfully develops and deploys its technology.

As well as tidal power looking good, wave power is also on the agenda. Anaconda says that wave energy is a particularly rich yet untapped energy resource which government studies state could produce 3%-5% of our electricity initially and up to 20% eventually. more in the August edition of NS.

The Crown Estate owns the majority of the seabed within a 12 nautical mile limit of UK territorial waters.
The estate has already made available areas for the development of offshore tidal power projects.
The Crown Estate, which manages the monarch's property holdings, already has properties that generate 1.55 gigawatts of offshore wind projects in Wales, Scotland and England.
It has recently launched offshore wind and tidal stream leasing rounds to select developers to take forward up to 800MW of projects in Northern Ireland waters.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Predicting Magnetic Storms

I was musing a while back about the GPS system, and what would happen if it suddenly went missing.
This weeks New Scientist says:

Over the past two decades, several solar flares and magnetic storms of varying intensity have hit Earth. Solar flares are surges of X-rays, gamma rays and extreme ultraviolet radiation, and they can damage electric grids, fry satellite electronics and endanger astronauts in space. Even passengers and pilots on aircraft flying over the poles are at risk.A team at Montana State University in Bozeman are automating the process of studying the sun, and have developed computer programs using image-processing techniques to identify changing features on the sun's surface.

Accurate forecasts of the sun's activity could prove very useful, and not just for the GPS system. Any electrical or electronic equipment could be compromised.

At 2:45 AM on March 13 1989, electrical ground currents created by the magnetic storm found their way into the power grid of the Hydro-Quebec Power Authority. Giant capacitors tried to regulate these currents but failed within a few seconds as automatic protective systems took them off-line one by one. Suddenly, the entire 9,500 megawatt output from Hydro-Quebec's La Grande Hydroelectric Complex found itself without proper regulation. Power swings tripped the supply lines from the 2000 megawatt Churchill Falls generation complex, and 18 seconds later, the entire Quebec power grid collapsed.

The cosmonauts on the Mir station were subjected to daily doses of about twice the yearly dose on the ground, and during the solar storm at the end of 1989 they absorbed their full-year radiation dose limit in just a few hours.

Money without Banks?

The New Scientist editorial poses the question "Can citizen banking neuter the fat cats?"
The editorial refers to an article about Peer to Peer banking, Essentially cutting out the middle man (and his cut) from money transactions.
P2P lending could cause more money to circulate in the real economy, if interest payments could go directly to the masses, rather than to banker bonuses etc.
This remind me of several systems that use mobile phones to transfer money amongst users. Would you trust your phone company more than your bank?