National Geographic: Solar panels floating on water will power Japan’s homes

Picture of a similar floating solar plant

Floating solar arrays take advantage of open water where land space is constrained.

National Geographic (by Bryan Lufkin):

Nowadays, bodies of water aren’t necessarily something to build around—they’re something to build on. They sport not just landfills and man-made beaches but also, in a nascent global trend, massive solar power plants.

Clean energy companies are turning to lakes, wetlands, ponds, and canals as building grounds for sunlight-slurping photovoltaic panels. So far, floating solar structures have been announced in, among other countries, the United Kingdom, Australia, India, and Italy.

The biggest floating plant, in terms of output, will soon be placed atop the reservoir of Japan‘s Yamakura Dam in Chiba prefecture, just east of Tokyo. When completed in March 2016, it will cover 180,000 square meters, hold 50,000 photovoltaic solar panels, and power nearly 5,000 households. It will also offset nearly 8,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. (Since the EPA estimates a typical car releases 4.7 tons of CO2 annually, that’s about 1,700 cars’ worth of emissions.)

The Yamakura Dam project is a collaboration by Kyocera (a Kyoto-headquartered electronics manufacturer), Ciel et Terre (a French company that designs, finances, and operates photovoltaic installations), and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation.

So, why build solar panels on water instead of just building them on land? Placing the panels on a lake or reservoir frees up surrounding land for agricultural use, conservation, or other development. With these benefits, though, come challenges.

Solar Enters New Territory

Overall, this is a very interesting idea. If successful, it will bring a huge impact,” says Yang Yang, a professor of engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles who specializes in photovoltaic solar panels. “However, I do have concerns of its safety against storms and other natural disasters, not to mention corrosion.”

Unlike a solar installation on the ground or mounted on a rooftop, floating solar energy plants present relatively new difficulties. For one thing, everything needs to be waterproofed, including the panels and wiring. Plus, a giant, artificial contraption can’t just be dropped into a local water supply without certain precautions, such as adherence to regulations on water quality—a relevant concern, particularly if the structure starts to weather away.

That is one reason we chose Ciel et Terre’s floating platforms, which are 100 percent recyclable and made of high-density polyethylene that can withstand ultraviolet rays and corrosion,” says Ichiro Ikeda, general manager of Kyocera’s solar energy marketing division.

Another obstacle? Japan’s omnipresent threat of natural disasters. In addition to typhoons, the country is a global hot spot for earthquakes, landslides, and tidal waves.

Aerial view of the Yamakura Dam

The planned floating solar array for Japan would sit atop the Yamakura Dam, east of Tokyo.

To make sure the platforms could withstand the whims of Mother Nature, Ciel et Terre’s research and development team brought in the big guns: a wind tunnel at Onera, the French aerospace lab. The company’s patented Hydrelio system—those polyethylene “frames” that cradle the solar panels—was subjected to very high wind conditions that matched hurricane speeds. The system resisted winds of up to 118 miles per hour.

Why Japan Could Be the Perfect Spot

Given its weather, why build floating solar panels in the storm-filled, Ring of Fire-hugging Land of the Rising Sun? The reason: Many nations could benefit from floating solar power. And Japan is their poster child.

The largely mountainous archipelago of Japan suffers from a lack of usable land, meaning there’s less room for anything to be built, let alone a large-scale solar plant. However, the nation is rich in reservoirs, since it has a sprawling rice industry to irrigate, so more solar energy companies in Japan are favoring liquid over land for construction sites. Suddenly, inaccessible terrain becomes accessible.

Kyocera’s Ikeda says available land in Japan is especially hard to come by these days, as the number of ground-based solar plants in the country has skyrocketed in the past few years.

But, he added, “the country has many reservoirs for agricultural and flood-control purposes. There is great potential in carrying out solar power generation on these water surfaces.”

In Japan’s case, Ciel et Terre says that the region’s frequent seismic fits aren’t cause for concern, either. In fact, they illustrate another benefit that floating solar panels have over their terrestrial counterparts, the company says.

Earthquakes have no impacts on the floating photovoltaic system, which has no foundation and an adequate anchoring system that ensures its stability,” says Eva Pauly, international business manager at Ciel et Terre. “That’s a big advantage in a country like Japan.”

Solar’s Potential Ecological Impact

Floating solar panel manufacturers hope their creations replace more controversial energy sources.

Japan needs new, independent, renewable energy sources after the Fukushima disaster,” says Pauly. “The country needs more independent sources of electricity after shutting down the nuclear power and relying heavily on imported liquid gas.”

This up-and-coming aquatic alternative impacts organisms living in the water, though. The structure stymies sunlight penetration, slowly making the water cooler and darker. This can halt algae growth, for example, which Ciel et Terre project manager Lise Mesnager says “could be either positive or negative.” If there’s too much algae in the water, the shadow-casting floating panels might be beneficial; if the water harbors endangered species, they could harm them.

It is really important for the operator to have a good idea of what kind of species can be found in the water body,” Mesnager says.

Since companies must follow local environmental rules, these solar plants are usually in the center of the water, away from banks rich with flora and fauna. Plus, companies might prefer building in man-made reservoirs instead of natural ones, as the chances of harming the area’s biodiversity are smaller.

Could the Future Include Salt Water?

More than three-quarters of our planet is ocean, which might present alternative energy companies a blank canvas on which to dot more buoyant energy farms. But moving floating panels to the open sea is still in the future. Kyocera’s Ikeda says it would bring up a whole new realm of issues, from waves to changing water levels, which could lead to damage and disrupted operations.

Ciel et Terre is experimenting with salt water-friendly systems in Thailand, but ocean-based plants might be impractical, as offshore installations are costly, and it’s more logical to produce electricity closer to where it’ll be used.

For now, companies are aiming to build floating energy sources that conserve limited space, are cheaper than solar panels on terra firma, and are, above all, efficient. Ciel et Terre says that since its frames keep Kyocera’s solar panels cool, the floating plant could generate up to 20 percent more energy than a typical ground system does.

The Yamakura Dam project might be the world’s biggest floating solar plant, but it wasn’t the first-and it almost certainly won’t be the last.

 

Pope cuts Tacloban trip short amid typhoon in the Philippines

Pope Francis waves to well-wishers after mass in Tacloban.

CNN: 

Pope Francis cut his trip to Tacloban short Saturday as an approaching typhoon with blistering winds threatened the city in the Philippines.

The Pope donned a slicker to conduct an outdoor Mass for hundreds of thousands who gathered despite stormy weather.

The Mass in Tacloban was shortened after sustained winds of 80 mph and higher gusts howled toward the city.

Tacloban is still recovering from the 2013 disaster of Super Typhoon Haiyan, described as one of the strongest storms ever recorded with 195 mph sustained winds. It killed 6,300 people nationwide.

Typhoon Mekkhala was upgraded from a tropical storm and made landfall in the Philippines in the afternoon just northeast of Tacloban.

The Mass began about a half-hour after he landed. Wind rustled the hood on the pontiff’s slicker as he spoke to a crowd clad in raincoats.

Typhoon Mekkhala, which is called Typhoon Amang in the Philippines, was arriving on the island of eastern Samar — about 50 miles from where the Pope was in Tacloban.

Just two weeks ago, a tropical storm struck Tacloban and surrounding areas, causing a commercial passenger plane to slide off the runway while landing. Tropical Storm Jiangmi, renamed Seniang in the Philippines, killed 54 people in landslides and flash floods in that region, CNN affiliate ABS-CBN reported.

During the Pope’s visit to Tacloban, he will have lunch with survivors of the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, renamed Typhoon Yolanda in that country. That typhoon displaced 918,000 families nationwide, the government says.

He is also to bless the Pope Francis Center for the Poor and will meet with clergy and more typhoon survivors in the cathedral in Palo.

The pontiff is also scheduled to perform an outdoor Mass in Manila on Sunday before millions of Filipinos.

By then, the storm should weaken to a tropical depression. Still, Manila could face gusty winds and significant rain during the Mass.

The Pope’s trip to Asian isles began Tuesday in Sri Lanka, and he landed in the Philippines on Friday.

On Friday, Francis met with President Benigno Aquino, and the pontiff urged the political leader to reject corruption and promote “honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good,” the Vatican said. He also spoke of “the moral imperative of ensuring social justice and respect for human dignity,” according to a copy of his remarks provided by the Vatican.

Here in the Philippines, countless families are still suffering from the effects of natural disasters. The economic situation has caused families to be separated by migration and the search for employment, and financial problems strain many households. While all too many people live in dire poverty, others are caught up in materialism and lifestyles which are destructive of family life and the most basic demands of Christian morality,” the Pope said in other remarks.

The Pope leaves Manila for Rome on Monday.

Video

Armless Pilot Jessica Cox Raising Money For Typhoon Victims

Motivational Filipino American speaker and armless pilot Jessica Cox is joining the effort to raise funds for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, reports ABS CBN.

I do want to help the disabled the best way I can and the best thing to do right now is to get the word out that we are collecting funds because Handicap International is on the ground now working to help all those victims,” she said.

Cox’s relatives are from the town of Mercedes, an area devastated by Haiyan. Her great aunt died in the disaster and she suspects when she visits the area possibly in March, she will not recognize it.

You can hear her thoughts on the disaster in this video report…

Link

Typhoon Haiyan destruction in Philippines visible from space

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Super Typhoon Haiyan is visible even from space. One of the most powerful storms to ever hit the Philippines, Super Typhoon Haiyan arrived on Nov. 8 with sustained winds of up 190 mph (305 km/h) in the hours before it made landfall. The aftermath of the storm can be seen in before and after false-color images captured by the ASTER sensor aboard NASA‘s Terra satellite.

The most dramatic change is in the hills above Tacloban, reports NASA’s Earth Observatory. Comparing ASTER images snapped in 2004 and in 2013, just days after the storm, reveals the hills were stripped bare of vegetation. (Plant-covered land is red; bare ground is tan.)

Along the coast, where a powerful storm surge flooded Tacloban, the ASTER image suggests mud and floodwaters still cover the ground. About 800,000 people were moved to storm shelters, but Haiyan’s deadly flooding reached a height of 20 feet (6 meters) in the central Philippines. Further inland, the blurry outline of the city’s neatly gridded streets could indicate debris blown down by the storm, the Earth Observatory said.

NASA scientists are using satellite imagery to produce damage maps that will help aid disaster relief efforts in the Philippines, NASA officials said in a Nov. 14 release.

Current estimates place the death toll at more than 2,000 people. Thousands remain missing and relief efforts have been hampered by the difficulty of reaching remote islands, according to news reports.

Check out this link:

Typhoon Haiyan destruction in Philippines visible from space

Video

Linkin Park’s “Music For Relief” raises money for Philippines

Linkin Park is raising money through their charity organization Music for Relief to send aid to the Philippines in response to the devastation the country has suffered after the most destructive and powerful typhoon in history. It’s inspiring not only to see Asian American musicians make it big but to see them use their success to help others.

Donate $25 for a bracelet and donate $100 to be entered to win 2 tickets and 2 meet and greet opps in a special Las Vegas show next January.

Link

Japan sending almost 1,200 soldiers to typhoon-hit Philippines

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Japan will send almost 1,200 troops to join relief efforts in the typhoon-ravaged Philippines along with three warships, 10 planes and six helicopters, in the single largest aid deployment by the country’s military.

About 1,170 members of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) will provide medical support and quarantine services, and transport relief goods, the ministry said in a statement posted on Friday.

Ten or so others will be based in Manila to coordinate relief operations with the Philippines and other countries.

The aircraft include seven C-130H transport planes, two KC-767 tanker planes, and one U-4 multi-purpose support plane.

Japan initially dispatched 50 SDF members on Tuesday to assist in medical support and transport operations and said on Wednesday it was readying as many as 1,000 troops to go to the Philippines. It is the first time Japanese troops have been active in Leyte since the island turned into one of the biggest battlegrounds of World War II, when US forces counter-invaded in 1944.

Many of the reinforcements were scheduled to leave Japan on Monday and arrive in the Philippines around Friday. The 1,180-strong contingent will be the largest single relief operation team ever sent abroad by Japan’s defense forces.

The previous record number was 925 sent in January 2005 to Sumatra after the Indonesian island was ravaged by a massive earthquake-triggered tsunami.

Previous overseas missions by the SDF, which adheres to the country’s post-war pacifist constitution, have usually numbered in the hundreds.

Check out this link:

Japan sending almost 1,200 soldiers to typhoon-hit Philippines

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Link

Why the Philippines wasn’t ready for typhoon Haiyan

Death Toll Rises in Philippines Following Impact Of Super Typhoon

Washington Post:

The typhoon that tore through the Philippines on Friday threw the country into such turmoil that, days later, public officials are reporting wildly different death tolls. The government disaster relief agency announced 229 killed, the army reported 942 and local officials in the devastated provence of Leyte went as high as 10,000. But none are much more than estimates, given that emergency workers still can’t reach some of the worst-affected areas. By every indication, the Philippine government is doing all it can to respond. But the fact that its officials and agencies have not even come together on the death toll, much less a national effort to serve the hundreds of thousands reportedly displaced, highlights just how badly the country was caught off guard by the storm’s destruction.

Why wasn’t the Philippines more ready? About 20 tropical cyclones hit the country every year, making it practically a routine. The arrival of typhoon Haiyan was certainly no surprise. Yet supposedly storm-proof shelters were destroyed and foreseeably necessary relief efforts have failed to come together. The single most important factor may be that, quite simply, this storm was just too big; with winds well beyond 200 miles per hour and sea levels surging across coastal communities, no country could absorb it unharmed. But the Philippines seems to have been particularly ill-suited to deal with this crisis.

One of clearest explanations for the Philippines’ unpreparedness may, sadly, also be one of the most difficult to address: its poverty. The country is ranked 165th in the world by GDP per capita, just below the Republic of Congo. One result is that many homes are modestly constructed of light materials like wood. Another is that the government has fewer resources to invest in infrastructure that could resist natural disasters and be used for relief efforts. Three days after the storm, the devastated city of Tacloban remained almost inaccessible; aid workers said it took six hours to make the 14-mile round trip ferrying supplies between the airport and the city center. Officials warn that telecommunications and power could be offline for days, weeks or even months, slowing rescue efforts.

The Philippines’ challenges, though, go beyond just the size of the national treasury. After all, developing countries such as China often invest heavily in infrastructure, plowing money into such projects to spur economic growth. The Philippines’ political system, though, can make centralized governance difficult. Owing to the country’s remarkable diversity — more than 100 languages are spoken, including eight recognized regional languages — local and provincial governments can have a degree of autonomy. That helps with political stability, but it makes it tougher for the central government to push through big infrastructure development, or to organize a national response once disaster strikes. This may help explain why, as of Monday, the government had provided just three military transport planes to bring supplies in to Tacloban and to evacuate refugees, though the coastal city is the country’s hardest-hit.

The Philippine military is also struggling, in Tacloban and elsewhere, to simply establish order. Looting has gotten so bad so quickly that relief groups say their convoys have come under attack. This may be an extension of the country’s ongoing struggle with crime, which has grown so severe that the government was losing control of public order long before the storm hit. In a radio interview earlier this year, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II conceded, “I am, like everyone else, also alarmed that despite the measures taken by the Philippine National Police, including checkpoints and others, these criminals are trying to challenge the government.

The apparent fear that the Philippine government would be unable to provide or police may be self-reinforcing, making criminals and non-criminals alike more likely to loot if they believe the state won’t come through. It may also help explain why a number of families in the worst-hit areas reportedly ignored the warnings and stayed in their homes. Reportedly, many feared that the state would be unable to protect their homes from looters, leading them to try to do it themselves.

Contrast the Philippines’ experience with typhoons to Japan‘s, with earthquakes. For centuries, the country was nearly helpless against its regular quakes; more than 140,000 people were killed when one hit outside Tokyo in 1923. Today, the country is engineered practically from the ground up to withstand them. Large buildings are fortified with elaborate hydraulic systems; many homes are networked with alarms that sound in case of an offshore quake that could bring a tsunami. Civilians drill since early childhood on the proper response. When the 2011 quake hit, despite the damage, only 25 of the country’s 170 emergency response hospitals were knocked offline even temporarily. Because people felt they could count on the government to come through, nearly all civilians complied with evacuation orders and hardly any looted. Within two days, for all their failings at responding to the Fukushima nuclear crisis, Japanese officials had successfully evacuated half a million people and deployed 100,000 troops, 190 planes, 45 boats, 120,000 blankets, and 110,000 liters of gasoline.

In many ways, the preparedness gap between Japan and the Philippines does, unfortunately, come down to money. Infrastructure is expensive; so are national preparedness programs and the sort of military that can mobilize so widely and so quickly. But the difference also gets to more elusive factors, about a government’s power to not just deploy helicopters and clear roads but to earn its society’s trust and, at the right moments, its compliance.

Check out this link:

Why the Philippines wasn’t ready for typhoon Haiyan