|Ken Novak's Weblog
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Ken Novak's Weblog
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Massive collection of news stories, blog links, and articles on renewables and clean tech. Includes some unique content, like an analysis
of the implications of today's solar silicon shortage, which "will likely end at some time from 2008 to 2010" when production levels are expected to at least double. "it is reasonable to suppose that the solar silicon shortage will
continue in 2007, but will be greatly reduced in 2008 and will come to
an end by 2010," which has some implications for thin-film producers. "In industrialized nations with solar incentives, such as the USA,
Germany, and Japan, the trend is towards a need for smaller and higher
efficiency solar panels, which means that silicon is best suited for
this market. In the developing world the need is for cheaper solar
panels that may take up more space, so that low cost thin films are
best suited for that market." 12:36:27 AM
The future of appliances is virtual
: Good summary of the advantages of virtual appliances: "Virtual appliances have some distinct advantages over traditional appliances
and servers. So many, in fact, that the age of the traditional hardware
appliance could be coming to an end. .. although hardware appliances are usually much easier to deploy and manage than traditional full function servers, they are wasteful when it comes to power consumption, heat output and space requirements. Each appliance also needs cabling to networks and power outlets, and before you can use them, most also need you to connect a serial interface to them to assign an IP address. This last point may seem trivial, but finding a PC with a serial port and a copy of HyperTerminal that’s within a cable’s length of a new appliance is not always easy. Plus, [you may need] two appliances if you want a reasonable degree of fault tolerance.
In contrast, virtual appliances can be run on whatever hardware you see fit,
ranging from a cheap single-socket desktop for appliances that you just want to
evaluate, through to extremely fault-tolerant multiprocessor server hardware and
SAN storage for a virtual appliance that you need to be constantly available." And of course they have advantages for the vendor, allowing them to distribute easily-changed software rather than inventory and ship hardware. 12:31:29 AM
Toyota pursuing plug-in hybrids and flex-fuel:
"Toyota Motor North America plans to pursue a
plug-in hybrid vehicle, touting the long-term potential of gas-electric
hybrids on America's highways. "Make no mistake about it,
hybrids are the technology of the future, and they will play a starring
role in the automotive industry in the 21st century," said Jim Press,
who recently became the first non-Japanese president of Toyota Motor
Corp.'s U.S. subsidiary, in a speech
Tuesday at the National Press Club." "First, Toyota is strongly considering introducing a flex-fuel vehicle program in the United States in the near term. We're already developing vehicles that can operate in ethanol-rich Brazil and we're optimistic that we can offer similar vehicles to American consumers. And, second, we are pursuing a "plug-in" hybrid vehicle that can travel greater distances without using its gas engine, conserving more oil and slicing smog and greenhouse gases to nearly imperceptible levels." 12:23:18 AM
BP to invest 8 bln usd in renewable energy business
: "BP PLC is to spend up to 8 bln usd over the
next 10 years to develop alternative and renewable energies, said chief
executive Lord Browne.
The planned investment, which is double its
existing spending on the business, seeks to create a new low-carbon
power unit that could potentially generate around 6 bln usd in annual
revenues within the next decade, he added.
The first phase of the programme will involve
1.8 bln usd spread over the next three years on solar, wind, hydrogen
and combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power generation projects.
'We are focusing our investment in alternatives and renewables on power
generation because it accounts for over 40 pct of man-made greenhouse gas
emissions, the biggest single source,' Browne stressed.
'As the pricing of carbon develops through
trading schemes and other initiatives, the market will grow rapidly as
low-emission technologies displace
less clean forms of power generation,' he said.
BP has identified sites in the US to
accommodate wind turbines with a total capacity of 2,000 megawatts. It
is also finalising plans to invest 400 mln usd at one of its CCGT
plants in the US.
" 12:01:08 AM
Friday, August 18, 2006
Parallels Compressor Server
: In addition to a virtualization engine for the Intel Mac, Parallels offers the Compressor, which "improves the performance of any Windows-powered Parallels, VMware and Microsoft virtual server or virtual workstation by reducing virtual hard disk size by 50% or more. .. Compatible with virtual servers built with Parallels Server (expected late 2006), VMware Server, VMware GSX Server, Microsoft Virtual Server.[or] Parallels Workstation 2.1, Parallels Desktop for Mac, VMware Workstation, and Microsoft Virtual PC." Two versions for sale, $50 and $180, with 15-day free trials. 11:55:38 PM
Interesting peer-to-peer storage "grid" in which copies of each users's data are encrypted and scattered among many peers for backup. Service is free if you agree to house 10 GB for every 1 GB you back up. If you pay a modest fee, you may store data without providing corresponding storage yourself. It makes sense for many broadband users with excess bandwidth and much empty disk space. It will be interesting to see if they can make the business model work. 11:48:52 PM
Uranium moved from Poland to Russia
: "The International Atomic Energy Agency secretly completed the removal of 40 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from a nuclear reactor near Warsaw on Wednesday and transferred the material to a secure site in Russia for disposal, according to an IAEA document.
The operation is part of an ongoing effort by American and United Nations officials to secure and recover high-risk nuclear and radiological materials around the world. Similar operations over the past three years have returned material from Libya, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Uzbekistan to Russia, where it was first made during the Soviet era.
The IAEA wants to reduce the number of reactors around the world that still use weapons-grade uranium. The agency says that more than 100 are still in operation, including in the United States, China and India, though numbers are concentrated in Eastern and Central Europe. It wants them converted to use low-enriched uranium and to eliminate the commerce in highly enriched uranium for research reactors." 11:18:06 PM
Monday, August 07, 2006
Let's get virtual
: How to convert an old, cheap PC into an iSCSI server (and use an dual Athlon white box for VMware ESX). 11:37:48 PM
Some Convenient Truths
: Short piece by Gregg Easterbrook that explains the optimism I feel on the technology of global warming. "Most progress against air pollution has been cheaper than expected. Smog controls on automobiles, for example, were predicted to cost thousands of dollars for each vehicle. Today’s new cars emit less than 2 percent as much smog-forming pollution as the cars of 1970, and the cars are still as affordable today as they were then. Acid-rain control has cost about 10 percent of what was predicted in 1990, when Congress enacted new rules. At that time, opponents said the regulations would cause a “clean-air recession”; instead, the economy boomed. ..
Emissions of CFCs have been nearly eliminated, and studies
suggest that ozone-layer replenishment is beginning. ..
[Why the pessimism on cutting GHG?] the success of previous antipollution efforts remains something of a secret. Polls show that Americans think the air is getting dirtier, not cleaner .. Democrats have found they can bash Republicans by falsely accusing them of destroying the environment. .. to acknowledge that air pollution has declined would require Republicans to say the words, “The regulations worked.” ..
Americans love challenges, and preventing artificial climate change is just the sort of technological and economic challenge at which this nation excels. It only remains for the right politician to recast the challenge in practical, optimistic tones... Cheap and fast improvement is not a pipe dream; it is the pattern of previous efforts against air pollution. The only reason runaway global warming seems unstoppable is that we have not yet tried to stop it."
I recognize that unlike previous air pollution, CO2 is the key product of combustion, rather than an irrelevant byproduct as most pollution is, so it will be harder to reduce. On the other hand, CO2 is directly related to fuel costs, which provide more economic push for reduction; America's efficiency is far behind comparable countries, and there is a large body of off-the-shelf efficiency technologies available; and are many non-fossil fuel alternatives already on the market, which drop in price with every year. Combining these factors, an 80% reduction in GHG from US levels seems to me feasible, especially over a 20-year period or longer. If I get the time, I'll write up the details behind these numbers in a future blog entry. 10:34:27 AM
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Tsunami and Peace Boost Illegal Indonesia Logging
: "The rebels of Aceh are trading their guns for chain saws and cashing in on a logging binge that is jeopardizing the future of the world's third largest tropical forest reserves.
It's a cruel conjunction of good news and bad news: The rebellion is over, but peace has opened previously inaccessible virgin forests to illegal logging. Meanwhile, 130,000 homes destroyed by the tsunami of December 2004 need replacing, and demand for timber is almost insatiable. ..
Indonesia, whose tropical forest reserves are the world's largest after the Amazon and the Congo basin, has lost around 40 percent of its canopy to loggers in the last 50 years. At this rate of deforestation -- an area the size of New Jersey lost each year -- lowland trees of Sumatra and the neighboring island of Borneo will disappear by 2010, according to Friends of the Earth and the World Wildlife Fund or WWF.
Aceh was largely protected during a decades-long separatist insurgency, with logging primarily limited to rebels and rogue elements within the military. But last year's peace deal opened up previously inaccessible virgin forests." 11:20:34 AM
Friday, August 04, 2006
Cringely shoots HD:
Details on how he chose digital HD recording and encoding for internet-downloadable TV. 10:52:09 AM