Chew On This: Farmers Are Using Food Waste To Make Electricity

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Chew On This: Farmers Are Using Food Waste To Make Electricity

Peter Melnik, a fourth-generation dairy farmer, owns Bar-Way Farm, Inc. in Deerfield, Mass. He has an anaerobic digester on his farm that converts food waste into renewable energy.

Allison Aubrey/NPR

This story was produced as part of a collaboration with the PBS NewsHour

As the season of big holiday meals kicks off, it’s as good a time as any to reflect on just how much food goes to waste.

If you piled up all the food that’s not eaten over the course of a year in the U.S., it would be enough to fill a skyscraper in Chicago about 44 times, according to an estimate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

And, when all this food rots in a landfill, it emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. In fact, a recent report from the United Nations from a panel of climate experts estimates that up to 10 percent of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions are linked to food waste.

So, here’s one solution to the problem: Dairy farmers in Massachusetts are using food waste to create electricity. They feed waste into anaerobic digesters, built and operated by Vanguard Renewables, which capture the methane emissions and make renewable energy.

The process begins by gathering wasted food from around the state, including from many Whole Foods locations. We visited the chain’s store in Shrewsbury, Mass., which has installed a Grind2Energy system. It’s an industrial-strength grinder that gobbles up all the scraps of food the store can’t sell, explains Karen Franczyk, who is the sustainability program manager for Whole Foods’ North Atlantic region.

The machine will grind up all kinds of food waste — “everything from bones, we put whole fish in here, to vegetables to dry items like rice or grains,” Franczyk says as the grinder is loaded. It also takes frying fats and greases.

Watch a video on farms turning food waste into renewable energy, in collaboration with PBS NewsHour.

YouTube

While Whole Foods donates a lot of surplus food to food banks, there’s a lot waste left over. Much of it is generated from prepping prepared foods. Just as when you cook in your own kitchen, there are lots of bits that remain, such as onion or carrot peel, rinds, stalks or meat scraps. The grinder turns all these bits into a slurry. “It really becomes kind of a liquefied food waste,” Franczyk says.

From here, the waste is loaded into a truck and sent to an anaerobic digester. “There’s no question it’s better than putting it in the trash,” Franczyk says. She says the chain is committed to diverting as much waste as possible and aims for zero waste. In addition to food donations, Whole Foods composts; this waste-to-energy system is yet another way to meet its goal. “We really do like the system,” she says.

We visited Bar-Way Farm, Inc. in Deerfield, Mass. Owner Peter Melnik, a fourth-generation dairy farmer, showed us how his anaerobic digester, which is installed next to his dairy barn, works.

“We presently take in about a 100 tons [of waste], which is about three tractor-trailer loads, every day,” Melnik says.

In addition to all the food waste from Whole Foods, he gets whey from a Cabot Creamery in the area, as well as waste from a local brewery and a juice plant.

In the digester on his farm, Melnik combines food waste from Whole Foods and other local sources with manure from his cows. The mixture cooks at about 105 degrees Fahrenheit. As the methane is released, it rises to the top of a large red tank with a black bubble-shaped dome.

Allison Aubrey/NPR

In the digester, he combines all of this waste with manure from his cows. The mixture cooks at about 105 degrees Fahrenheit. As the methane is released, it rises to the top of a large red tank with a black bubble-shaped dome.

“We capture the gas in that bubble. Then we suck it into a big motor,” Melnik explains. Unlike other engines that run on diesel or gasoline, this engine runs on methane.

“This turns a big generator, which is creating one megawatt of electricity” continuously, Melnik says — enough to power more than just his farm. “We only use about 10 percent of what we make, and the rest is fed onto the [electricity] grid,” Melnik explains. It’s enough to power about 1,500 homes.

He says times are tough for dairy farmers, so this gives him a new stream of revenue. Vanguard pays him rental fees for having the anaerobic digester on his farm. In addition, he’s able to use the liquids left over from the process as fertilizer on his fields.

A large motor (housed inside here) runs on the methane gas captured in the digester. This motor powers a generator, which creates electricity — enough to power about 1,500 homes.

Allison Aubrey/NPR

“The digester has been a home run for us,” Melnik says. “It’s made us more sustainable — environmentally [and] also economically.”

Vanguard Renewables hopes to expand its operations in the state and elsewhere. “There’s more than enough food waste in Massachusetts to feed all of our five digesters, plus many more,” says CEO John Hanselman.

Massachusetts has a state law that prohibits the disposal of commercial organic waste — including food — by businesses and institutions that generate at least one ton of this waste per week. This has created an incentive for food businesses to participate in the waste-to-energy initiative.

Hanselman points to Europe, where there are thousands of digesters in operation. His hope is that the concept will spread here. “The food waste recycling through anaerobic digestion could be done in every part of the country,” Hanselman says.

The company is currently building an anaerobic digester on a farm in Vermont. The gas produced there will be piped to Middlebury College, which will help the college reduce its carbon footprint.

Physicists Have Identified a Metal That Conducts Electricity But Not Heat

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SCIENCE.ORG)

 

Physicists Have Identified a Metal That Conducts Electricity But Not Heat

FIONA MACDONALD
30 NOV 2019

Researchers have identified a metal that conducts electricity without conducting heat – an incredibly useful property that defies our current understanding of how conductors work.

The metal, found in 2017, contradicts something called the Wiedemann-Franz Law, which basically states that good conductors of electricity will also be proportionally good conductors of heat, which is why things like motors and appliances get so hot when you use them regularly.

But a team in the US showed this isn’t the case for metallic vanadium dioxide (VO2) – a material that’s already well known for its strange ability to switch from a see-through insulator to a conductive metal at the temperature of 67 degrees Celsius (152 degrees Fahrenheit).

“This was a totally unexpected finding,” said lead researcher Junqiao Wu from Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division back in January 2017.

“It shows a drastic breakdown of a textbook law that has been known to be robust for conventional conductors. This discovery is of fundamental importance for understanding the basic electronic behavior of novel conductors.”

Not only does this unexpected property change what we know about conductors, it could also be incredibly useful – the metal could one day be used to convert wasted heat from engines and appliances back into electricity, or even create better window coverings that keep buildings cool.

Researchers already knew of a handful of other materials that conduct electricity better than heat, but they only display those properties at temperatures hundreds of degrees below zero, which makes them highly impractical for any real-world applications.

Vanadium dioxide, on the other hand, is usually only a conductor at warm temperatures well above room temperature, which means it has the ability to be a lot more practical.

To uncover this bizarre property, the team looked at the way that electrons move within vanadium dioxide’s crystal lattice, as well as how much heat was being generated.

Surprisingly, they found that the thermal conductivity that could be attributed to the electrons in the material was 10 times smaller than that amount predicted by the Wiedemann-Franz Law.

The reason for this appears to be the synchronised way that the electrons move through the material.

“The electrons were moving in unison with each other, much like a fluid, instead of as individual particles like in normal metals,” said Wu.

“For electrons, heat is a random motion. Normal metals transport heat efficiently because there are so many different possible microscopic configurations that the individual electrons can jump between.”

“In contrast, the coordinated, marching-band-like motion of electrons in vanadium dioxide is detrimental to heat transfer as there are fewer configurations available for the electrons to hop randomly between,” he added.

Interestingly, when the researchers mixed the vanadium dioxide with other materials, they could ‘tune’ the amount of both electricity and heat that it could conduct – which could be incredibly useful for future applications.

For example, when the researchers added the metal tungsten to vanadium dioxide, they lowered the temperature at which the material became metallic, and also made it a better heat conductor.

That means that vanadium dioxide could help dissipate heat from a system, by only conducting heat when it hits a certain temperature. Before that it would be an insulator.

Vanadium dioxide also has the unique ability of being transparent to around 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), but then reflects infrared light above 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) while remaining transparent to visible light.

So that means it could even be used as a window coating that reduces the temperature without the need for air conditioning.

“This material could be used to help stabilize temperature,” said one of the researchers, Fan Yang.

“By tuning its thermal conductivity, the material can efficiently and automatically dissipate heat in the hot summer because it will have high thermal conductivity, but prevent heat loss in the cold winter because of its low thermal conductivity at lower temperatures.”

A lot more research needs to be done on this puzzling material before it’s commercialized further, but it’s pretty exciting that we now know these bizarre properties exist in a material at room temperature.

The research was published in Science in 2017.

A version of this article was first published in January 2017.

Louisiana Democrat, Gov. John Bel Edwards, Keeps Seat Despite Trump’s Opposition

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Louisiana Democrat, Gov. John Bel Edwards, Keeps Seat Despite Trump’s Opposition

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards talks to media in Shreveport, La., Thursday. Saturday, Edwards, a Democrat, beat out Republican Eddie Rispone, who President Trump endorsed.

Gerald Herbert/AP

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, held on to his seat Saturday after a tough challenge from his Republican opponent, Eddie Rispone, a wealthy businessman and political newcomer who President Trump supported.

Edwards is the only Democratic governor in the Deep South and is not a typical Democrat. He’s a pro-Second Amendment gun owner who signed one of the country’s strictest anti-abortion bills this year.

This is the third and final gubernatorial election of 2019 and the second loss for President Trump who campaigned for all three candidates. The president was in Louisiana this week and framed the race as a personal referendum, urging voters to unseat Edwards.

About two weeks ago, Republican Tate Reeves won the open seat in Mississippi, but in Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear ousted Republican incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin.

Edwards’ second term may be a bitter pill for Trump who had much invested in this year’s elections ahead of his own election in 2020.

Turkish Govt Shocks Citizens with Electricity Prices

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Turkish Govt Shocks Citizens with Electricity Prices

Wednesday, 2 October, 2019 – 10:30
A worker performs checks at Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, which is run by state-owned Petroleum Pipeline Corporation (BOTAS), some 70 km (43.5 miles) from Adana, Turkey, February 19, 2014. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo
Ankara – Saeed Abdelrazek
A new increase in electricity prices in Turkey for the second consecutive time in three months has enraged citizens.

The Turkish Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EPDK) announced Tuesday raising consumer electricity prices by 14.9 percent, knowing that the prices witnessed an equal raise in July.

After the new increase, users would pay starting October TRY71.22 (around USD14) for 100 kilowatt-hours. EPDK said, in a statement, that a key factor for increasing prices was the Electricity Distribution Co. changing its wholesale prices with the unit-cost of electricity inching up to 35 kurus.

The new move caused a withering criticism of the government on social media, with citizens expressing anger expressed anger at the power price rises which would increase burdens on Turkish households.

Earlier, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development issued a report pointing out that the electricity prices in Turkey rose by 307 percent since 2003, when the government of Justice and Development Party became in charge under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Last August, the government imposed a new increase in natural gas prices for the fourth time in less than one year by 15 percent for houses and 14 percent for industrial usage.

Economists criticized the new roadmap to implement the economic program, adding that the three goals announced by Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak are “unrealistic”.

Albayrak laid out on Monday Turkey’s targets in the New Economic Program (NEP) covering the 2020-2022 period. He stated that they trimmed the inflation forecast for the end of this year to 12 percent, from the current year’s predictions of 15.1 percent, and to 8.5 percent for 2020, 6 percent in 2021 and 4.9 percent in 2022.

“Growth in 2019 will be 0.5 percent…After closing 2019 with an unemployment rate of 12.9 percent, we aim to reduce the figure to 11.8 percent next year, 10.6 percent in 2021 and 9.8 percent in 2022,” the minister said.

Economist Ugur Gurses commented on Albayrak’s roadmap, saying that he presented it to persuade his father-in-law (Erdogan) and not the people. The official target of growth is 5 percent by 2022 but the presented target for inflation is 12 percent for 2019, 8.5 percent, 6 percent and 4.9 percent for the three coming years respectively.

Former Turkish Central Bank Governor Durmus Yilmaz said that the budget deficit estimates in 2020-2022 of 2.9, 2.5, and 1.5 percent are based on taxes collection, which in their turn will be provided by an anticipated growth of 5 percent in the coming three years.

Iraq Signs Deals with GCC Interconnection Authority to Transmit Electricity

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Iraq Signs Deals with GCC Interconnection Authority to Transmit Electricity

Monday, 16 September, 2019 – 10:30
Iraq’s Minister of Electricity Luay al-Khateeb speaks during a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq December 11, 2018. Hadi Mizban/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
Baghdad – Fadhel al-Nashmi
Iraq signed Sunday a landmark deal with the GCC Interconnection Authority (GCC IA) for a transmission line.

Initially, the line would import 500 megawatts of electricity to its overstretched grid by 2020 and in competitive Gulf market prices, revealed the Iraqi Electricity Ministry.

The 300-kilometer transmission line would run from Kuwait to Iraq’s southern port of Faw and be financed by the GCC IA, according to the ministry.

Electricity Minister Luay al-Khateeb signed the deal, which comes amid other agreements signed with huge western firms under the strategy adopted by the ministry to reform and develop the sector, which has been suffering from a deteriorating power supply.

Iraq partly fills its power shortages by importing both electricity and natural gas from Iran.

Musab al-Mudarres, the spokesperson for the Iraqi Electricity Ministry, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Iraq seeks to become a promising market for energy by networking with the Gulf system and importing 500 megawatts by 2020, and being the link between the Gulf energy system and Europe’s.

Mudarres stressed that the ministry is working on a road map set to revitalize the energy sector, which depends on the assistance of giant firms such as General Electric (GE) and Siemens.

As for the volume of generated electricity and the target output of the ministry, the spokesperson said that Iraq has a power capacity of around 18,000 megawatts, including the amount imported through Iranian lines. But the ministry aims for 30,000 megawatts in the coming three to four years.

On Saturday, the ministry signed deals with Siemens and Orascom Construction to rebuild two power plants. Also, GE signed a new agreement with Mass Energy Group Holding (MGH) to help boost electricity generation to 4.5 megawatts.

China Eastern releases electronic baggage tag

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS NETWORK)

 

China Eastern releases electronic baggage tag

China Eastern releases electronic baggage tag

Ti Gong

China Eastern Airlines releases a permanent electronic luggage tag at Hongqiao airport on Tuesday.

China Eastern Airlines released a permanent electronic luggage tag at Hongqiao airport on Tuesday that allows travelers to check-in and trace luggage using their mobile phones.

The carrier plans to release the first batch of 4,000 tags to its passengers on flights between Shanghai and Beijing.

The tag has a screen to show the passenger and flight information after coming in contact with a passenger’s electronic tags

smartphone. A chip embedded in the tag lets passengers follow the progress of their luggage on the phone.

“The new tag is convenient and I no longer need to remove the traditional paper tags often stuck tightly on the luggage,” said Li Rui who was one of the first travelers with an electronic tag on a Shanghai-Beijing flight during a trial period.

“It will be better if other carriers can also recognize the tag,” he added.

Some passengers expressed concern. “What if the tag goes missing during transportation,” said a passenger from Beijing surnamed Liu. “The traditional paper tag is difficult to remove but also hard to get lost,” she added.

“It will be better if other carriers can also recognize the tag,” said Li Rui who was among the first batch of travelers experienced the electronic tag on a Shanghai-Beijing flight.

China Eastern platinum card holders can apply for the electronic tag at ticket counters. Other passengers can apply through the airline’s app from Thursday. Frequent travelers between Shanghai and Beijing will have priority.

The service will be expanded to other flights and mainly the hub airports in the future, said Shen Chenyi, general manager of the airline’s luggage control center.

The airline also plans to make bespoke luggage tags for passengers, he added.

The electronic tags were in use during the first test run at Beijing’s new mega airport on July 20 as the sprawling air hub gears up for its opening in September. China Eastern, Shanghai Airlines and China United Airlines operated 12 simulated flights and opened 16 check-in counters at the Daxing International Airport for the exercise.

Previously, China Southern also announced the release of its electronic luggage tags to replace traditional paper tags.

China Eastern releases electronic baggage tag

Ti Gong

The tag, which doesn’t have a battery, has a screen showing passenger and flight information after it is in contact with a passenger’s smartphone.

China Eastern releases electronic baggage tag

Ti Gong

A China Eastern passenger shows his electronic luggage tag at Hongqiao airport on Tuesday.