Spain is the latest European government to reduce state incentives for solar power, after its industry ministry on 1 August confirmed cuts to feed-in tariffs — the price an electricity utility must pay to generators of solar energy. A draft law, now under review with the national energy regulator CNE, would cut subsidies by 45% for new large, ground-based photovoltaic plants, and by 25% and 5% for large or small roof-top panels, respectively. Existing plants might also have their subsidies cut, once the law’s details are clarified later this year. Germany and Italy have also announced solar subsidy cuts this year.
These days it seems like everyone is into fast-and-light alpine climbing, even plants. Now, according to researchers in Germany, valley plants are racing up the flanks of the Bernina Alps, Switzerland. The range is home to Piz Palu (12,812 feet) and the Biancograt (AD) on Piz Bernina (13,284 feet), the easternmost 4,000-meter peak in the Alps. Continue reading Plants Gone Alpine
A wood-burning stove that uses sound to generate electricity and refrigeration could one day make waves in developing countries. That’s the hope of an international team headed by engineer Paul Riley of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. This month, the U.K. government and the U.S.’s Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico awarded the team almost $4 million to develop a Stove for Cooking, Refrigeration, and Electricity (SCORE). The appliance would rely on external combustion, such as a wood fire, to heat one end of a tube of compressed gas, inducing sound waves that can be harnessed to generate enough electricity to power a light bulb and a small refrigeration unit.
The principle isn’t new, but the technology has been too expensive for general use, says thermoacoustician Steven Garrett of Pennsylvania State University in State College. The SCORE team hopes to make it cost-effective with cheaper materials: Compressed air could replace high-pressure helium, for example. “If anybody can pull this off, it’s got to be these guys,” says Garrett. The device may not cut down on wood consumption, but tests suggest that it will make use of up to 30% of a wood fire’s energy, much more than a typical stove’s 7% efficiency.