Sustainability Reads: August 18- August 24

How big data is about to ignite smart grids worldwide
Big data is the buzzword right now. This article does a nice job of illustrating how big data analytics technologies are and will increasingly be applied to the energy sector. Even more specifically, how big data turns the electric utility grid into the smart grid (oh yes, yet another buzzword). Across generation, transmission, distribution and consumption, the grid becomes smart due to sensors, metering solutions and energy management systems that connect with other systems to provide data in regards to the infrastructure’s operations and performance. The result is increased energy efficiency, resiliency, and reliability including due to better forecast, planning and response to the nation’s power needs. Overall, the implementation of smart grid technologies can lead to an estimated cost savings of up to $2 trillion by 2030, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  Alan Rose on

 Old car batteries could make cheaper, more efficient solar panels
Lead-acid car batteries are hazardous to the environment, but effects are minimized due to recycling rate. However, as more efficient batteries such as lithium-ion replace traditional ones, the lead still needs to be kept out of landfills. Article showcases study by engineers at MIT explaining that the lead can be recycled to make long-lasting solar panels. And cheaper than they are made currently. The solar cells only need thin sheets of a compound called perovskite (about half a micrometer thick), the lead from just one car battery could make enough solar panels to power 30 households. Original study published in Energy and Environmental Science, article from the Washington Post.

Wishful thinking about natural gas: why fossil fuels can’t solve the problems created by fossil fuels
Great article calling out our disillusion with natural gas as a transition towards low-carbon economy. There is no evidence that higher gas use has led to lower emissions and there is every reason expect that the dash for gas will “simply increase the total amount of fossil fuel available in the world to burn, accelerating what is already beginning to look like a rush towards disaster”. Article by Naomi Oreskes and published the Energy Post. 

Health alert – fracking’s chemical cocktails
Acids, biocides, gels, and distillates are some of the chemicals needed for natural gas extraction in the hydraulic fracturing process, scientists have recently concluded. Eight substances were identified as toxins, and “even innocent chemicals could represent a real hazard to the water supply.” Although the fracking industry still claims that there is nothing to be fearful of in the mixture used to break the rock, the industry still keeps it’s ingredients a secret from the public.

Luckily scientists have found what it is that gets pumped into the ground, but the next step is to use this information to impose strict rules and regulation. By Tim Radford at the Ecologist.

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