Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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The Solar Revolution of the 21st Century

English: Solar cell

Solar: Inexpensive and Available to All

By Lin Smith
Accessible and Affordable Solar Energy

October 13, 2013—Energy powered by solar cells,  which are photovoltaics “generating electrical power by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity using semiconductors, started creating energy for satellites’ electrical systems over 50 years ago, in 1958. New, less expensive and more efficient forms of solar energy are being offered today to the consumer almost daily–the solar revolution of the 21st century. Also, taking place today,  is a movement to make renewables accessible and affordable to off-the-grid communities of the world. The newest innovations in renewables could create a higher standard of living, reduce diseases, and malnutrition, as in Africa, where solar pump systems draw water from underground sources or streams to water gardens. (See Solar in Africa: Putting an End to Malnutrition, One Village at A time.).

Nano-Technology

One of the newest innovations in solar is spray-on solar, which not only collects light but also collects infrared waves. Spray-on solar is in the experiment stage at the University of Alberta, where researchers are spraying nanoparticles on solar cells and testing their efficiency. The nano-scale solar technology is “the world of individual atoms or molecules which focuses on integration of nano-scale devices and materials, constructing them into a program for a specific application,” aligning the atoms in rows 30 to 40 across to create a solar spray-on material. The solar nanoparticles absorb light and conduct electricity from the minerals, zinc and phosphorus, both plentiful materials.

According to Maria Trimarchi, “How Stuff Works,”the researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, are experimenting with spray-on solar that will be “lighter, stronger, cleaner and generally less expensive” than most solar methods in production today. Jullian M.Buriak, Senior Research Officer at the University of Alberta, said in a recent interview, “Solar cells are currently made from sand in a process that involves heating the materials repeatedly to very high temperatures-around 1000C. As a result it takes 3 to 6 years for the resulting solar cell to generate the amount of power used to manufacture the solar cells in the first place.”

Producing Inexpensive Solar Cells

Buriak states that the solar nanoparticles are “made in a standard, bubbling pot glassware set up in a lab using elements that are very abundant-zinc and phosphorus.” This new method would spray solar panels as they move down a conveyor belt, using a hydrogen film plus an anti-reflective material. The researchers are working to develop inexpensive solar in the form of roll-to-roll printing (like a newspaper), or a spray-on coating using the nanoparticle based “inks” made from the zinc phosphide, dissolving these minerals to form the ink. Buriak uses a spray coater that you can buy from an automobile touch-up shop for the spray-on ink. Researchers are also working to improve efficiency of the cells, plus ways to produce them on a larger scale. Their next step is to scale up manufacturing of the solar ink, producing a product that is less expensive because the process used to make the solar cells is very low-energy. CBCNews Canada, reported, “Silicon-free solar cells could be produced in mass production which are light and flexible enough to roll up and use as window blinds.”

There is hope for reversing the CO2 level in our atmosphere with innovative people like Jullian Buriak, who have the will to make solar inexpensive, efficient, and available to all by harnessing the free energy from our Sun!


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Keystone XL Pipeline—Why It’s A Bad Idea!

Canadian Oil Fields

The mining and processing of the oil sands has negative environmental impacts, such as greenhouse gas emissions, large strip mines which “strip the land” of all natural flora, and impacts on water quality.

By Linn Smith

Republished February 8, 2015

September 7, 2013—-Producing oil from tar sands is “scraping the bottom of the barrel”, and so it is with the KeystoneXL Pipeline, a pipeline owned by a company named TransCanada, that would double the tar sands currently being transported from the oil fields of Alberta, Canada to the U.S.. The tar sands are under the Boreal Forests of Alberta, home to many species of plants and animals.The Boreal Forest not only cools the earth with its shade, it also plays an important role in preventing global warming, as the trees store and use carbon dioxide (the global warming culprit) in photosynthesis. Under the TransCanada leasing conditions, the company would have the option to lease an area the size of Florida for tar sand production.

Strip Mining for Tar Sands

Tar sand (or oil sand) consists of sand, sandstone, clay, and water, which are saturated with an extremely thick form of petroleum. These fields of tar sands have only recently been mined for their oil deposits, as new technology has made it possible to extract and use the oil. The tar sand oil is often called unconventional oil and is different from the traditional oil of oil wells, having a composition as thick as molasses.The oil sand is so thick it must be extracted from the earth by strip mining or by injecting steam or solvents into the sands. The mining and processing of the oil sands has negative environmental impacts, such as greenhouse gas emissions, large strip mines which “strip the land” of all natural flora, and impacts on water quality (using 2-3 barrels of water for each barrel of oil). In processing the tar sand, the water is contaminated, stored in human-made ponds, known as tailing ponds, and left to seep cyanide and ammonia back into the ground, contaminating our clean water supplies. When transported through a pipeline, the tar sand oil is mixed with lighter hydrocarbons to allow it to flow. Processing the tar sand for household use requires a processing that generates 12% more greenhouse gases per barrel than conventional oil. Currently, oil is not produced from tar sand on a large, commercial basis, but the XL Pipeline would change that, opening the spigot to allow the flow of “dirty oil” around the world. .

Carrying the Sands to the Gulf of Mexico

The pipelines of TransCanada have yet to reach a coastal port–that’s what XL would do–carry the tar sand to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. The company is currently in 56 separate eminent domain actions against landowners in Texas and South Dakota who refuse to give permission to build the Keystone Pipeline on their land. A Texas judge has given permission to TransCanada to seize the land if the owners refuse to sign an agreement with the company. Why not build the pipeline across Canada to their own coastal ports? In June 2013, British Columbia rejected the pipeline across their land. “The British Columbia government said “no” to moving half a million barrels a day across the 600 miles to their ports, stating the risk of spills to the pristine environment would pose a risk to salmon fishery and to human health”. The pipeline has been rejected by the Canadian government and approval by the U.S. is still pending. If rejected by the U.S. government, TransCanada will reportedly seek routes to the Arctic Circle for transportation purposes, shipping the tar sand to China and countries which have no regulations against burning the “dirty oil”– reaping the company enormous profits!

One of the Dirtiest Most Carbon-Infested Fuels

James Hansen, NASA climatologist testified in the U.S.congress that there is still time to save the planet and reduce the global warming villian, CO2, in our atmosphere, “but that means moving expeditiously to clean energies of our future. Moving to tar sands (oil sand), one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fuels on the planet, is a step in exactly the opposite direction, indicating either that governments don’t understand the situation or that they just don’t give a damn. People who do care need to draw the line!” Seventeen of Hansen’s fellow climate scientists have signed a letter urging President Obama to reject the pipeline, stating the pipeline is “counter to national and planetary interest.” The U.S. already imports 800,000 barrels of tar sand oil per day. The Keystone XL would import another 830,000 more barrels per day of the dirty oil. The tar sands of Canada have been estimated at 1.63 trillion barrels. If all of it was extracted from the Canadian tar sand fields, it is estimated the temperature would rise .4 degrees C or approximately 14 degrees Fahrenheit. President Obama will ultimately decide the fate of the pipeline.The southern half of the pipeline, Oklahoma to Texas, is currently under construction. The northern half is still in the proposal phase. Obama rejected the first permit for the northern project, but TransCanada resubimitted their application and a decision is expected some time in the fall of 2013.

TransCanada’s oil is a “dirty little secret” to some, called “black gold” by others, depending on a person’s affiliation with personal oil investments or their concern for the environment, but if people care about preserving our planet, it must stay in the ground.

it must stay in the ground!