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USA’s Energy Det program ‘Orange Button’ will bring down costs of solar power

Department of Energy Program Aims to Bump Solar Costs Even Lower A clean energy initiative goes beyond declining hardware costs to address the remaining barriers to embracing solar over fossil fuels. Inside Climate News BY DAVID J. UNGER MAY 2, 2016 While the solar industry trumpets the rapidly declining costs of solar panels—which have paved the way for solar energy capacity in the U.S. to GROW NEARLY TWENTY-FOLD SINCE 2008—those numbers don’t account for all the costs involved in the transition to clean energy. That is why a new government initiative aims to slash the overall price tag by better managing the reams of data associated with financing, building and operating solar installations.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Orange Button, a $4 million program launched earlier this month, seeks to streamline what experts say can be a costly, complicated and time-consuming path to bringing more solar panels online. By developing an easily downloadable, standardized set of data about individual solar installations, the DOE hopes to lower the bureaucratic barriers—as well as the excessive costs—that discourage investors, utilities and consumers from embracing solar.

Orange Button is part of the DOE’s SunShot Initiative, which launched in 2011 with the goal of making solar energy cost competitive with coal, natural gas and other traditional sources of electricity such as nuclear and hydroelectric power. If SunShot reaches its goal of reducing utility solar costs to $1 per watt by 2020, it will enable solar-generated power to expand from less than 2 percent of the nation’s electricity generation portfolio to roughly 14 percent by 2030 and 27 percent by 2050, according to the program’s vision study.

Similar programs have already been launched in other industries. The DOE’sGreen Button was launched in 2012, allowing utility customers to download standardized, consumer-friendly data about their energy usage. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Blue Button program offers people help accessing and transferring their health records.

Part of the challenge for solar is a lack of information. Compared to housing and other well-established markets, solar is relatively new, so banks, utilities, solar companies and other constituencies do not have a standardized set of metrics to share. The U.S. energy market has 18,000 jurisdictions and 3,000 utilities in regulated and unregulated markets, so navigating its idiosyncrasies costs time and money, said Elaine Ulrich, program manager at the DOE.

“When you look at the cost of financing for these solar projects, it’s artificially high,” Ulrich told InsideClimate News. “Solar is a long-term asset that has pretty well-known characteristics, but it’s treated as a higher-risk asset because there isn’t sufficient data available to help folks in the financial industry to know how to assess the risk of [a] portfolio of assets.”…….

May 6, 2016 Posted by | renewable, USA | Leave a comment

Parents near nuclear plant concerned about evacuation plans


In the event of an emergency… what?

That’s what parents living near the Harris Nuclear Plant want to know about their children’s schools. 23 schools are less than 10 miles from the Shearon Harris nuclear powerplant. If those schools had to evacuate, where would the kids go? The school system knows, but the parents don’t, and they asked the I-Team to get answers, tonight at 5:30

“I should always know where my child is,” said Apex mother Shannon Robke. “No matter what the situation.”

Robke lives in one of the many neighborhoods within the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone around the Harris plant. It’s located in New Hill, N.C. about 20 miles south of Raleigh. Like her neighbors, Robke has never been told by the school system what the plan would be if anything were to go wrong at the nuclear facility.

That’s because in Wake County the plans are secret. A spokesperson for the school system emailed the reasoning:

“Apex Friendship High School does have an evacuation plan in place to respond to an emergency situation at Shearon Harris Power Plant. Wake County government oversees the emergency planning and response for those situations. Our part of the emergency response plan is outlined in the Wake County Public School System- Emergency Operations Plan. Since it contains sensitive safety information, it is not a public record. FEMA has reviewed and approved our emergency response plans.”

State law expressly prohibits schools from making emergency plans public. It’s spelled out in North Carolina’s educational statutes. Still, some parents say that’s little comfort.

“The safety of my child is my first concern and I do need to know where they are,” said Robke.

Robke’s neighbor, Chris Young remembers getting potassium iodide pills from the school system and county about 15 years ago and says she can’t remember hearing from the schools since.

“What’s going to happen if something happens during a school day?” Young wanted to know. “What are the parents supposed to do? What are their kids supposed to do? The school system should be providing the parents with some kind of information.”

There are 23 schools from four districts in the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone around the nuclear plant. The EPZ represents the area folks are most at risk of plume exposure in a disaster. The risk zone for ingestion exposure goes out to 50 miles.

And there have been problems at Harris. In 2013, cracks were found in the reactor vessel head. In 2006 and 2007, the plant was found to be among the worst in the nation for non-compliance……..

May 6, 2016 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

Claim that dragonfly wings can track radiation

Dragonfly wings can track radiation doses after a nuclear mishap, New Scientist,  By Bas den Hond, 5 May 16, Humble insects may be called as witnesses to the next nuclear accident. Shining UV light on their wings reveals how much radiation they have absorbed.

Staff at nuclear plants carry dosimeters, instruments that take real-time measurements of radioactive exposure, usually expressed in grays (Gy). Civilians in the surrounding areas probably won’t have these devices. In the event of an accidental release of radioactive material, this leaves a gap in the data on its dispersal and resulting radioactivity doses, making it hard to estimate health effects by location.

Part of the solution is to investigate how radiation alters materials in the body or in personal property – for example, nails or the glass of a mobile phone. And if no one is present close to a radiation leak, insects may do the job, says Nikolaos Kazakis of the Athena Research Centre in Xanthi, Greece.

“Insects are everywhere,” he says. Their short lives give them an advantage over phones: “They live only a few weeks, so you don’t have to make corrections for natural radiation when you want to measure the accidental dose.”

 To prove the concept, he and his colleagues exposed the wings of dragonflies and houseflies to different doses of ionising radiation. The radiation ejects electrons from some atoms in the wings, leaving behind “holes”, the absence of an electron, which behave as particles in their own right……..

May 6, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Nuclear fusion – International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor not likely to succeed

Why the World’s largest Nuclear Fusion Project May Never Succeed.  Cost overruns and delays plague the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. MIT Technology Review, By Richard Martine, 4 May 16 The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project reached a critical phase last week, as a panel of experts convened to review the latest revised budget and time line to build the proposed fusion reactor delivered its findings. Launched in 2006, ITER has been plagued with delays and cost overruns as the challenge of bringing six countries—the United States, China, India, Japan, Russia, and South Korea—together with the European Union to build an experimental reactor has proved nearly insurmountable.
The latest schedule put forth by the project’s director, French nuclear physicist Bernard Bigot, calls for the machine to be switched on by 2025 and to actually achieve fusion only in 2035—a dozen years later than originally planned. The panel found that timing plausible but said that the latest budget, which would add another €4.6 billion ($5.3 billion) in cost overruns to the project, was unlikely to become available…..

May 6, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, technology | Leave a comment

Nuclear power – a very dangerous idea for Nigeria

Is Nigeria ready for nuclear power? Greg Odogwu, Punch, 5 May 16  For more than one year now, the Nigerian government has been playing around with the idea of acquiring nuclear technology for electricity generation. It started at the twilight of the past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, when it was reported that his government signed an agreement with a Russian company, Rosatom, to cooperate on the design, construction, operation and decommissioning of an atomic power facility.

Then, two months ago, President Muhammadu Buhari received the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mr Yukiya Amano, at the Presidential Villa with the Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo and some key ministers, where it was reported that the President told the IAEA boss that Nigeria welcomed the support of the agency for our country’s aspiration to generate electricity using nuclear energy……

How could one even start to imagine that our dear country, with all the infrastructural lapses, zero maintenance culture and poor leadership could handle a nuclear project of whatever size? Nuclear power is not tea party, it is not a try-fail-and-repair project, and, seriously, it is not a matter of my-government-is-better-than-yours!……

The Nigerian government must be reminded that no matter the size or purpose of a nuclear plant, accidents do happen with radioactives and the effects of uncontrolled radioactive contamination are reported around the world, with many unreported. We can never be prepared enough.

Secondly, ours is a country in a serial battle against insurgents and anti-government elements. These individuals over the years have used all sorts of weapons to fight both the government and the people. We have seen cases of improvised bombs made in people’s bedrooms. We have also seen sophisticated shoulder-launched anti-aircraft guns wielded by these insurgents. We have seen them poison water reserves to kill civilians as a maximum impact strategy.

Now, what prevents insurgents from invading Nigeria’s nuclear facilities to acquire materials for dirty bombs? Even on the Internet, one could learn how to string together radioactive elements with conventional explosives for terror purposes……..

if Nigeria starts a nuclear plant, where shall we dispose our nuclear waste? As the plant begins operation, enormous quantities of radioactive waste are created during nuclear fuel process, including high-level radioactive waste, and low-level radioactive waste. Even a country as sophisticated as the United States finds it excruciatingly hard to dispose of its nuclear waste. Official and carefully groomed repositories are commissioned and decommissioned accordingly.

These are no waste products you throw away like we throw away our hazardous hospital waste in poor people’s neighbourhoods. Once you throw away nuclear waste carelessly, be sure that both the poor and the rich will suffer immensely………

Nigeria has so much sun that could readily give us 4,000 mega watts with less money than we would spend setting up a hazardous nuclear plant to generate same quantum of power………

May 6, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Germany to get right out of coal power, well before 2050

Germany to exit coal power ‘well before 2050’ : draft document, Reuters 4 May 16 BERLIN | BY MARKUS WACKET Coal-fired power production in Germany should come to an end “well before 2050”, according to a draft environment ministry document seen by Reuters on Tuesday on how Europe’s biggest economy can achieve its climate goals.

Calls have grown for Berlin to set out a timetable to withdraw from coal in power production, after global leaders clinched a climate-protection deal in Paris last December to transform the world’s fossil-fuel driven economy.

The government is due to decide on a national climate action plan for 2050 by mid-2016 which will lay out how it plans to move away from fossil fuels and achieve its goal of cutting CO2 emissions by up to 95 percent compared to 1990 levels by the middle of the century…….

Germany generated more than a quarter of its electricity from renewable sources – such as wind and solar power – in 2014. The document said the amount of energy produced by green sources should increase by around 75 percent by 2030.

Support for research into energy-storage technologies should be doubled over the next 10 years, the paper says.

The government will also push for a stricter European emissions trading system and is considering whether an additional levy on petrol, heating oil and gas would increase demand for green technologies.

May 6, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Michigan Utility, German Nuclear Plant Infected with Malware

E Security Planet  The system used to monitor fuel rods at the nuclear plant was infected with several viruses, and the utility was hit by a ransomware attack. By Jeff Goldman  May 05, 2016 A nuclear power plant in Germany and an electric utility in Michigan were both recently hit with malware infections.

The system used to monitor fuel rods at the Gundremmingen nuclear power plant, about 75 miles from Munich, was recently found to be infected with several viruses including W32.Ramnit and Conficker. However, the infected system wasn’t connected to the Internet, Ars Technica reports.

Still, Carl Wright, executive vice president and general manager atTrapX Security, told eSecurity Planet by email that a system that isn’t connected to the Internet may still be at risk. “TrapX Labs has found malware in several client sites that has jumped the gap into isolated or secure environments, which is often the case with complex process control systems and SCADA networks,” he said…….

May 6, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment