Sustaining Future

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Toward a Flexible Energy Future

by Lord Andrew Turnbull

In this article, the author explains the benefits of government taking a flexible portfolio of energy options. The subtitle of the article is actually "When the price of fuel reflects all the costs, government and industry will know where to invest. "

In order to create such a framework, a government needs to balance out three elements: the ecological impact of carbon [and waste as in the case of nuclear energy], the variability of fuel supply, and the costs of energy security.

The element can be implemented using a shadow price for carbon and by setting a carbon-tax, license restrictions and environmental regulations. The second element, as sugguested in the article needs also take into account the volatility of some of the energy sources. The problem with volatility of the price of fuel can be managed by a mix of different energy source: some high-upfront capital source which typically is like to a low continuous running cost (such as nuclear energy as suggested in the article, but I will argue for solar in country like Australia) and some highly source with good response to demand, such as convention generator.

The article does not go into great depth about the energy security except mentioning that government should seek out a source which does not depend on political relationships with some countries, which, in my opinion, is easy to say. However, in today's political climate, a large deposit of harmful waste (nuclear or carbon dioxide) is a potential target for a terror attack and we should avoid as much as possible.

After reading this, I still think Australia's best energy portfolio would be a capped coal-fire generation (capped at present level and put in place a regulatory timetable of reducing emission by clean coal technology), increasing share (to meet the economical growth) from renewable source, solar in particular. If I were to make a decision, I would completely rule out nuclear energy and use our huge reserve of easily to-mine uranium source as a political asset. I don't see why Australia should and would need to monetise such a resource.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Natural Swimming Pools

The title links to a good overview article on natural swimming pool where plants act as filter to keep water in the pool clean and healthy without any need of chemical.

Some keys points:

  • reserve 50% of the pool surface for plants - this is not necessary bad because the plants themselves are beautiful and are part of your backyard/swimming pool.

  • the plant area should be shallow, starts at 15cm (6 inches) from the edge to about 45cm near the swimming area. The plant area is separated from the swimming area by boundaries with about 2cm (less then 1 inch) clearence at the top to allow free water flow between plant area and swimming area. Additional benefit of the shallow part is the heating effect. It helps to keep the water warmer.

  • circulate the water from the swimming area to the plant area for cleansing using water pump. [Some design recommends that the plant area is complete separated from the swimming area at the top and leave tunnels for water to go back to the swimming area near the bottom of the pool and circulate the water use water pump solely.]

  • aerate the water, either using water falls or air pump(s) which deliver bubbles in the swimming area.

  • monitor the health of your water by allowing frogs to breed - they also eat mosiquitos! If the frogs disappear, your pool is in trouble!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Some interesting designs/objects

Solar Powered Laptop Case
Eclipse Solar Gear has created a hard laptop case that can actually charge a laptop! That is, if you've got full sun and a relatively small laptop computer.

The laptop case, which eclipse is readying for the consumer market, can also charge any smaller electronic gadgets. And, on top of being the first of its kind, it's also a pretty good looking product.

Home Aquarium
Water tunnel allowing fish to swim from one tank to the other. As long as the two tanks are at the same level and the tunnel is less than 10m high, the atmospheric pressure should keep the water in the tube (at the top, the pressure is almost zero, the fish may not survive! so better keep the height to a reasonable few meters.) Filling the tube would be very tricky. Like to see how it is done!

3D Printing
via Boingboing: "3D printing has come to Sears in the form of this $1800 computer-controlled Craftsman CNC machine that can "print" your 3D designs on wood and other materials, either from a direct PC hookup or a memory card."

Alternately, there is an open-source version which you can build youself.

Speaking Strips
A long thin plastic strip, about 60cm long. Along the length of the strip is a pattern of fine ridges or lines. Run your thumb nail along the ridges, and the tape speaks. However the sound needs to be magnified, so that you can hear it. One method is to hold one end of the strip between your teeth. Then, when you run your nail along the strip you hear it talk, but no-one else does. Or you can stick one end of the strip to an inflated balloon or a paper cup using sticky tape. The balloon or cup acts as an amplifier, and you can then demonstrate it to anyone nearby. Never heard a balloon talk?

Hollow celery as Bloody Mary straw
I don't need to say anything. Drink your Bloody Mary through an edible celery straw.

Cooling PC using water from Swimming Pool
from Boingboing: "PC builders decided to convert their machines to water-cooled, ripping out the fans -- and for water, they used an entire nearby swimming pool, hooking up a pump that circulates cool pool-water through their PCs and back into the pool. Thus, they get "quieter, cooler" computers and a warmer pool." It does not look like these PC can make the pool any warmer, but definitely can keep the PC running at comfortable 20+ degrees.

Swimming Pool without Chemical
Talking about swimming pool, here is a design which does not require any chemical to treat the water. My daughter's water polo club is building one in Melbourne here which uses plants to purify water. More info on Google.

Chest-pillow for gamers
You prop the bottom on your crossed ankles and rest your chin on the top, letting you look down at your tight-clenching hands for extended hours of supported gaming fun.