If the University of Minnesota had parents, they'd hang this on the fridge with pride:
The U of MN is one of only three schools (out of 322 nationwide) to score straight As in all nine categories on their College Sustainability Report Card!
Way to go Gophers!!
You’d probably say, “Huh?? Hold on, what is geothermal energy anyway, and how does it work?”
Geothermal is heat from deep inside the earth. Because heat is a form of energy, it can be captured and used to heat buildings or make electricity. There are three basic ways geothermal power plants work:
(Click here for great diagrams of each of these geothermal energy production methods.)
“And what about carbon sequestration too? What’s that and how does it work?”
Courtesy Department of Energy
Carbon sequestration includes carbon (usually in the form of carbon dioxide, CO2) capture, separation, transportation, and storage or reuse. Plants, which “breathe” CO2, naturally sequester carbon, but people have found ways to do it artificially too. When fossil fuels are burned to power your car or heat your home, they emit CO2, a greenhouse gas partially responsible for global climate change. It is possible to capture those emissions, separate the bad CO2, and transport it somewhere for storage or beneficial reuse. CO2 can be stored in under the Earth’s surface or, according to Martin Saar’s research, used in geothermal energy production.
Alright. We’re back to Professor Saar’s research. Ready to know just how he plans to sequester carbon in geothermal energy production?
It’s a simple idea, really, now that you know about geothermal energy and carbon sequestration. Prof. Saar says geothermal energy can be made even greener by replacing water with CO2 as the medium carrying heat from deep within the earth to the surface for electricity generation. In this way, waste CO2 can be sequestered and put to beneficial use! As a bonus, CO2 is even more efficient than water at transferring heat.
But don’t take my word for it. Come hear Professor Martin Saar’s lecture, CO2 – Use It Or Lose It!, yourself during the Institute on the Environment’s Frontiers on the Environment lecture series, Wednesday, October 27, 2010 from noon-1pm.
Frontiers in the Environment is free and open to the public with no registration required! The lectures are held in the Institute on the Environment’s Seminar Room (Rm. 380) of the Vocational-Technical Education Building on the St. Paul campus (map).
In elementary school, I learned about "The 3 Rs" (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), and my knack for thrift-shopping was handed down to me from my mother at an even younger age. But, until yesterday, I'd never heard of a "free store." Apparently, I've been missing out on a new phenomena of reusing! How embarassing. To save you the blush, here's the scoop:
A free store is like a thrift store or garage sale, but everything is always marked 100% off.
Here's a New York Times article about a Brooklyn free store, but I'm guessing you're more interested in something closer to home (assuming the Twin Cities are your home, of course). Lucky for you, the Southeast Como Improvement Organization is collecting usable stuff that students tend to leave on the street during move-in/ move-out and making it available for free at the University of Minnesota's ReUse Center from 10am to 4:30pm through this Saturday, Sept. 11th, 2010 (details here). Additionally, for small fees, the U of M's ReUse Center is open year round to the treasure-troving public Thursdays 8am to 8pm starting tomorrow, Sept. 9th, 2010 (details here). Apparently, there was once a catapult for sale... what's not to love about that??
So, go ahead! See what you can find. My trash might be your treasure, and it's environmentally friendly too.
In an age of Google Earth, University of Minnesota professor, Rebecca Krinke's, map of Minneapolis still manages to capture the imagination.
Courtesy University of Minnesota
Krinke, an associate professor in landscape architecture, and a team of students, created a simple laser-cut maple vaneer map of the Cities this summer. Then they mounted it on plywood, armed themselves with both a gray and gold colored pencil, and hit the streets. That's where the magic happened and the map transformed into both a public art piece and an informal sociology investigation.
The map traveled to public spaces in both Minneapolis and St. Paul where curious passerbys were
"...invited to use the colored pencil of their choice—gold for joy and gray for pain (or both)—to express their memories of places.
The stories they told as they colored the impound lot nearly gray and entire city blocks gold provided a powerful emotional release. (To read more about the participants memories, read the full article here or check out Krinke's blog, Unseen/Seen: Mapping Joy and Pain.)
The physical map is preparing for it's final curtain call, but Krinke is thinking about putting it online and making it more interactive.
Going to the Minnesota State Fair is mostly about putting bad things into your body. Occasionally on the midway, things can come out of your body. But University of Minnesota researchers will be at the 2010 State Fair with hopes of taking DNA out of about 500 kids. And those who donate will get lots of cool stuff. But some wonder if this is the proper way to conduct medical research. What do you think?
Are you interested in conserving our country's land, waterways, historical, and/or cultural resources? How about connecting your fellow Americans with the outdoors? Senior representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the U.S. Department of Defense want to hear from you!
As part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative, the University of Minnesota is offering a pubic listening session August 4th from 4-7:30pm in the Tedd Mann Concert Hall that offers an opportunity to engage these senior representatives in a conversation about the conservation solutions of Minnesotans. The event is free and open to the pubic, but online registration is strongly encouraged. Want to register or need more information? Event details here.
The research group, the NorthernSTAR Energy Efficient Housing Research Partnership Team, will be developing cheap solutions to home energy efficiency in cold climates. For me and you, that means more comfortable and eco-friendly Minnesota winters to come! Pretty cool, huh?
The Smartypants Grid
The smart grid is actually a futuristic collection of technologies that manage electricity distribution. Ultimately, they are "smarter" (more efficient) at generating, distributing, and using electricity than the current industry standards.
Courtesy Duke Energy
Some people are getting excited about smart grids because cutting back on electricity usage is cutting back on fossil fuel consumption which is cutting back on human-driven causes of global climate change. (Are you still with me or did I lose you there?) Other people are looking forward to smart grids because they should decrease the number of brown- and blackouts experienced in the country, which improves the region's health and economy. Still more people are pumped for the smart grid because it could mean lower electricity bills for their homes.
When will the smart grid reach your hometown? That depends. Some cities already have smart grid technology, but regional adoption is set to take place on a rolling basis during the next five years and is largely dependent on whether the American people get on board.
Scientific American: How Will the Smart Grid Handle Heat Waves?
"Pretty well, once the technology to automatically respond to peak demand and store renewable energy matures."
Smart grid test cites in Harrisburg, PA, Richland, WA, and Boulder, CO have their work cut out for them this week as people across the nation crank down the A/C to battle the heat wave covering most of the continental United States. According to the Scientific American article, a regional smart grid should have the potential to excel under stressful heat wave conditions. In the meantime, utility companies and academics are working toward developing a method to better store electricity when supply exceeds demand thus creating a stockpile of electricity for times of scarcity.
If you're looking for a more interactive learning experience, check out General Electric's smart grid webpage complete with narrated animations.
Of course, if you're looking to hear from academics or industry experts themselves, the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment in conjunction with the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment and St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, are hosting Midwest's Premier Energy, Economic, and Environmental Conference, E3 2010, at the St. Paul River Center (right across Kellogg Blvd from the Science Museum) Tuesday, November 30.
Courtesy Andrej Salov
This month University of Minnesota researchers have developed a technique to better capture solar energy using 'quantum dots,' a type of nanoparticle. Researcher William Tisdale said, while
“This work is a necessary but not sufficient step for building very high-efficiency solar cells. It provides a motivation for researchers to work on quantum dots and solar cells based on quantum dots.”
The technology could improve solar energy efficiency from 30 to 66 percent! That's incredible. Furthermore, the improvements may also cut manufacturing costs (and carbon footprints) by removing the need for high temperature processing. The ramifications for nanotechnology and clean energy abound.
Agriculture is widely understood to be one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, which is unfortunate for two reasons: 1) greenhouse gases are a driving force of climate change, and 2) last time I checked, people still need to eat.
Courtesy Curbed SF
Specifically, farming is one of the largest contributors of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – all greenhouse gases – in our atmosphere. The four major sources of these emissions include fossil fuel consumption, fertilizer usage, animal farts and poop (no kidding!), as well as land use change (mainly, deforestation). As serious a problem as climate change is, one of the most important truths for environmentalists to remember is that people have needs that necessarily affect the health of the environment. For example, the world’s population is currently well over six billion people who need roughly 2,000 calories from food each day. That’s a lot of food that we depend upon farmers to raise and grow for us every day! And with predictions of nine billion people occupying the Earth in a mere forty years, our global population’s appetite is growing.
However, a June 2010 study published in Scientific American says that farming’s bad rap is undeserved, and actually modern high-yield crop farming has a net reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Say what??
Here’s how it works: What sustainability-minded scientists from many disciplines strive to do is find ways to limit (better!) or eliminate (best!!) peoples’ negative impact on the environment.
In the 1960s, farmers and researchers began to develop new methods of farming to feed the rapidly expanding population. This has been called the “Green Revolution.” The results of their studies produced modern high-yield farming, which has allowed farmers to produce more food in less space. According to the Stanford researchers, though high-yield farming is possible largely because of fertilizer use – one of the four major sources of greenhouse gas emissions on farms – it prevents land use change in the form of deforestation – another one of the four major sources of greenhouse gas emissions on farms. The key point is that the greenhouse gas emissions caused by fertilizer use is less than the greenhouse gas emissions caused by deforestation, which yields a net reduction. That is, if we had continued with pre-Green Revolution farming techniques, in order to feed today’s population, we’d be using less fertilizer, deforesting more land, and emitting considerably more greenhouse gases than we currently are.
Today, at the Institute on the Environment, the Global Landscapes Initiative continues to focus on seeking ways to secure a healthy land use future for both people and the environment. This includes researching innovative agricultural practices.
Another Scientific American article has it’s own ideas about how to provide food to our growing population: build vertical farms. These futuristic, skyscraping greenhouses are based upon existing hydroponic greenhouses and could reduce fossil-fuel use while simultaneously recycling city wastewater. Hydroponic greenhouses grow plants without soil! Instead, they use mineral nutrients dissolved in water, allowing plants to be grown just about anywhere… including on the 34th floor. According to the article,
“A one-square-block farm 30 stories high could yield as much food as 2,400 outdoor acres…”
That’s a lot of food. A lot. Really? Is it possible? The paper’s author claims it is and that architects, engineers, designers, and “mainstream organizations” are taking note of his vertical farm concept.