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Utility companies go to war against solar


Utility companies across America are fighting solar, imposing high fees on homeowners who install their own solar panels to feed back into the grid. This one was predictable from a long, long way out -- energy companies being that special horror-burrito made from a core of hot, chewy greed wrapped in a fluffy blanket of regulatory protection, fixed in their belief that they have the right to profit from all power used, whether or not their supply it.

Bruce Sterling once proposed that Americans should be encouraged to drive much larger trucks, big enough to house monster fuel-cells that are kept supplied with hydrogen by decentralized windmill and solar installations -- when they are receiving more power than is immediately needed, they use the surplus to electrolyze water and store the hydrogen in any handy nearby monster-trucks' cells. When the wind isn't blowing or the sun isn't shining, you just plug your house into your enormous American-Dream-mobile -- no need for a two-way grid.

This solution wasn't just great because it aligned the core American value of driving really large cars with environmental protection, but also because it was less vulnerable to sabotage from hydrocarbon-addicted energy companies.

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Graphene supercapacitors could make batteries obsolete

A battery can hold a lot of energy, but it takes a long time to charge it. A capacitor can be charged very quickly, but doesn't hold a comparable amount of energy.

A graphene supercharger is the best of both: it takes just seconds to charge, yet stores a lot of energy. Imagine being able to charge your spent laptop or phone battery in 30 seconds, and your electric car in a few minutes. Also, unlike batteries, Graphene supercapacitors are non-toxic.

The Nobel Prize was awarded to the inventors of Graphene in 2010. Wikipedia defines Graphene as a "substance composed of pure carbon, with atoms arranged in a regular hexagonal pattern similar to graphite, but in a one-atom thick sheet. It is very light, with a 1-square-meter sheet weighing only 0.77 milligrams."

(via Tony Moore at the Boing Boing G+ community)

Can Sandy victims sue power companies for extended outages?

Short version: yes, but it's not easy. "To win, New York ratepayers have to show that their power company was not just slow or inefficient. Instead, Kreppein said, under a 1985 New York Court of Appeals ruling called Strauss v. Belle Realty, electric company customers must establish that the utility was grossly negligent — that its conduct was way outside the bounds of reasonableness." Alison Frankel at Reuters. Xeni

Japan: record high radiation levels found in Fukushima fish, more than a year after nuclear accident

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) in Japan said Tuesday its monitoring efforts have recorded record high radiation levels in local seafood: 25,800 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium in fish sampled within a 20-kilometer range of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The photo shows fish caught Aug. 1, 2012 within 20 kilometers of the crippled nuclear power plant. The findings indicate that radioactive contamination remains at unsafe levels in the area's food supply more than a year after the nuclear crisis.

From Kyodo News:

The level of cesium found in greenling is 258 times that deemed safe for consumption by the Japanese government, suggesting that radioactive contamination remains serious more than a year after the nuclear crisis.

Fishing in the sea off Fukushima Prefecture is voluntarily restricted except for trial fishing of certain octopuses.

CNN has more.

Must-listen radio: "Nuclear Power After Fukushima," documentary from BURN: An Energy Journal


Veteran radio journalist and master storyteller Alex Chadwick (who's also a personal friend—he's taught me so much about journalism over the years) hosts a must-listen radio documentary premiering this weekend on public radio stations throughout the US.

BURN: An Energy Journal is a four-hour, four-part broadcast and digital documentary series exploring "the most pressing energy issues of our times."

Part One of the series, titled "Particles: Nuclear Power After Fukushima," coincides with March 11, the first anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. I've listened in entirety, and followed along as the BURN team researched and produced over the past few months, and I can tell you this is truly powerful work. The show also includes PBS Newshour reporter Miles O'Brien, reporting from inside the Fukushima exclusion zone on his recent trip there.

Carve out some time and listen to it on-air, or listen online at this link.

Snip from description:

Included in the riveting premiere episode is an exclusive, first-time-ever interview with an American who was on-site at the Daiichi nuclear plant when the earthquake and tsunami struck. Carl Pillitteri, a maintenance supervisor and one of 40 Americans in Fukushima on that fateful day, describes his terrifying ordeal as he desperately attempted to lead his men to safety through the enormous, shuddering turbine buildings in total darkness.

Below, a video excerpt from Alex's interview with Pillitteri.

More about the radio series follows.

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Inside Japan's Nuclear Meltdown, one year later: Frontline doc airs tonight on PBS

Airing tonight on PBS Frontline (check your local listings, or watch it online!), a documentary film that provides the definitive inside account of what really happened, moment to moment, during the Fukushima disaster. "Inside Japan's Nuclear Meltdown" features exclusive interviews for the first time with Japan's prime minster and the top executives at TEPCO.

Tomorrow, Frontline is hosting a chat with the film's producer/director, Dan Edge, and Boing Boing science editor Maggie Koerth-Baker will be participating.

There's a terrific interview with Edge on the public radio program Fresh Air.