Category Archives: Environment

Robot Fish to Save the Ocean?

-Laura Lundberg

Technologies today are quickly becoming part of our normal lives, as they work to make our lives easier, and to help us combat problems that we couldn’t fix without the help of technology. Even today, it is important to keep creating technology that will attempt to combat some of the possible climate change impacts that we could be facing in the near future. One group of researchers at Essex University in the United Kingdom have been working diligently to try and make technology and the environment come together, and just a few years ago in 2006 they managed to create something incredible – a robotic fish.

As strange as it sounds, this robotic fish is an incredible piece of technology. Developed by Dr. Huosheng Hu and his team of researchers at Essex University, the idea was to create a robotic fish that could take in data from the world’s oceans and wirelessly link it to an on-shore lab that would get results about what pollution is being spread throughout the ocean. The fish was created by several leading robotics engineers and can swim at the speed of a tuna (up to 70 kilometers an hour), has the grace of an eel, has sensors that can detect pollution and intake data, and will be able to (with luck) communicate with other robotic fish in order to transfer information and co-evolve with the other robotic fish instead of learning individually. Each robotic fish will measure about five feet in length, and will be able to cover about 3 feet with every pump of its tail.

In order to make this idea a reality, Dr. Huosheng Hu had to tap into the Web of Science from Thomson Reuters, which brings scientists, engineers, and researchers from all over the world together so that they can collaborate on various projects. This robotic fish was created by several different engineers, and yet apart from just taking in data about water pollution, there is the chance for this robo-fish to help lead schools of real fish away from dangerous toxins and oil spills. An article by discovery.com explains how these robo-fish could establish themselves as the “leader” in a school, record toxicity levels in the water, and then navigate an entire school to safety. This could prevent thousands of fish killings by oil rigs and continue to keep the biodiversity of fish alive.

Dr. Huosheng Hu and his team hope that they can release a few of their robotic fish into the wild as the beginning of a new three year project. In an article on enviro-news.com, Luke Speller from one of the consulting groups (BMT) that is working on the robotic fish says that, “We’re planning to launch a shoal of robotic fish off the coast of northern Spain in late 2011 or early 2012 as part of a three-year research project”. Hopefully these fish will prove to successfully record data and help to combat pollution in our oceans.

If you want to see this robo-fish in action, be sure to check out this news report by Reuters that talks about the fish, the project, as well as the inner-workings of the fish itself.

Photo taken from howstuffworks.com

The City Meets the Forest

-Laura Lundberg

Sustainability and “Going Green” are trends that have become popular in the past few years all around the world.  It seems that everyone wants to be a part of the green trend, and businesses, cities, and countries are working hard to bring to the people new ways of travelling, eating, dressing, and living that will have their products cut down on carbon emissions, and provide their clients with a more comfortable way of living. Milan, Italy, is no exception to this idea, as it is currently building one of the greenest and most creative projects ever – an apartment building that will be the world’s first ever vertical forest.

The Bosco Verticale is being designed by the architecture firm known as Stefano Boeri Architetti, and it will be erected in the center of Milan, close to the Isola neighborhood. Both residential towers that are undergoing construction currently will measure 33 stories (110 meters) and 23 stories (76 meters) respectively and each building will hold about 900 trees of different species and height that will “surround” the building in green foliage. These two residential towers will have over 10,000 square meters of trees (if all the trees were planted on flat land), and will keep the CO2 emissions down for this urban area.

According to an article published by Inhabit.com, an architectural weblog that is devoted to the future of design while keeping the environment in mind, “The diversity of the plants and their characteristics produce humidity, absorb CO2 and dust particles, producing oxygen and protect the building from radiation and acoustic pollution. This not only improves the quality of living spaces, but gives way to dramatic energy savings year round” (Diane Pham, Inhabit.com). This will allow for residents who wish to live in the buildings to feel comforted by the fact that their apartment’s energy will be clean, safe, and sustainable.

Another interesting feature of these two eco-friendly residential buildings is that all of the grey water from the apartments will be filtered and recycled throughout the building, which will dramatically cut down on costs of water for tenants. The trees will also help the residents save on money, as they will provide shade during the summer and more sunlight to be captured during the winter once the trees have lost their leaves.

The Bosco Verticale is only the first step in the architect’s vision of a greener Milan. He has an overall project entitled BioMilano, which will aim to create a ‘green belt’ around the city of Milan by incorporating over 60 abandoned farms that exist on the outskirts of the city and  repurposing them for community use. The Bosco Verticale began its construction in 2007, and hopes to be finished constructing within a few years.

While the architects of Stefano Boeri Architetti seem to envision plenty for the city of Milan, the architect firm hopes that their green ideas will spark a wave of the implementation of more sustainable buildings and polices in other countries, so that everyone can start becoming more sustainable than they are today.

If you want to learn more about the Bosco Verticale idea, check out this news report done by an Australian media called “The Age”.

Renderings taken from Boeri Studio

Student Describes Arrest during Tar Sands Protest

Photo taken by Monica Christoffels

-Sam Bouchat

Monica Christoffels drove across the country in a borrowed Prius. At the end of her journey she was arrested, and she regrets nothing.

Christoffels was arrested protesting the Keystone X.L. pipeline proposal outside the White House in late August.

The Keystone X.L. pipeline would transport oil from the Tar Sands in western Canada to oil refineries in Texas. It would stretch for 1,700 miles, through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. While the project would create jobs and lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil, the environmental risks are significant. Many protestors fear not just environmental damage from the pipeline, but also the repercussions of taking a $13 billion step away from renewable energy.

Christoffels heard about the Washington D.C. rally online through Tar Sands Action, the main protest group. To get there, she decided to join a caravan of cars travelling from Sacramento, California. She borrowed a car from another activist in Portland and headed out.

Christoffels, a 24-year-old dual enrollment student at the University of Oregon and Lane College, first began protesting in 2009, when she marched at the UO in protest of the Iranian presidential elections. Since, she has been involved with Power Shift West ’09, the Climate Justice League and a variety of other environmentally-aware organizations.

The Tar Sand Action movement, however, is a whole different level. A total of 1,252 people were arrested at the Washington D.C. rally, making it the largest display of civil disobedience since the 1970s.

On her cross-country trip, Christoffels and the rest of her caravan stopped and stayed with supporters in Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and West Virginia, where the caravan was stalled because of hurricane Irene. In every location, the protestors would hold up signs and raise awareness about its cause.

They also stopped in Wyoming, where the caravan received much negativity from the citizens.

“There was this one guy who said, ‘Go back home. Go eat your granola, go smoke your dope. We don’t want you here,’” said Christoffels. But the opposition did little to slow down the caravan.

On Monday, August 29, 2011, Christoffels and her fellow activists marched outside the White House. After three warnings from police to leave the area, the arrests began.


“That was probably the most nerve-wracking part of the experience,” said Christoffels at a presentation she held last Saturday. “You’re actively and consciously breaking the law. Every instinct tells you that you need to leave. It’s really hard for a lot of folks to disobey the police.”

But sometimes it’s necessary to get a point across. One-by-one, the Tar Sands activists were confined with zip-ties, shuffled into police vehicles and taken to Anacostia prison. After processing and paying a fine, they were advised not to get arrested again and let go. Christoffels stayed in D.C. to protest in front of the White House for another week.

Christoffels remains an active advocate for renewable energy and fights to get the Keystone X.L. pipeline proposal rejected.

Another anti-pipeline rally outside the White House is planned for November 6.

Oregon’s Bottle Bill: A lasting legacy

– Christina Gray

When people think of Oregon, they think of rain, Duck football and of course, recycling. Oregonians have earned the reputation of having one of the greenest states in the country. Part of that reputation stems from the 40-year-old legislation dubbed, the “Bottle Bill.” Signed into law back in 1971, the Bottle Bill made Oregon the first state to pass legislation regarding recycling, which put a five cent deposit on aluminum cans. The five cent deposit on drink containers provided an incentive for people to save up their cans and bottles to recycle rather than throw away.

The law’s original purpose was to reduce littering and conserve resources, a mindset that many Oregonians still follow today. Since then, Oregon has maintained one of the highest beverage container recycling rates in the country; however, it’s fair to say a lot has changed in the last forty years, from new types of beverage containers to the rate of inflation. For most, a nickel isn’t a huge incentive to save a soda can.

For the last three years, House Representatives Vicki Berger (R-Salem) and Ben Cannon (D-Portland) have been battling to catch the bottle bill up with the times. The original 1971 legislation is said to have been one of the most intensely lobbied bills in Oregon’s history, and now these two co-sponsors are living a part of that legacy.

Berger’s father, Richard Chambers, was one of the main lobbyists who worked on passing the original 1971 bill. Now, as Berger recalls the hours her father spent fighting for Oregon’s first recycling law, she is able to play a part in keeping the tradition alive. Cannon’s history with the Bottle Bill also dates back to his childhood, when he and his family collected cans to recycle.

Lobbyists have looked to expand the bill practically since it took effect. For Cannon, many of his first political experiences involved the Bottle Bill, from his first time lobbying to drafting the latest expansion starting in 2005. There was a successful expansion of the bill in 2007 to include water bottles and flavored-water containers. Cannon continued to work on the bill, becoming one of the legislators on the Oregon Bottle Bill Task Force throughout 2007 and 2008.

Progress on the expansion of the bill has been a roller coaster for Cannon, with low points of disinterest and high times close to getting all the votes. He’d spend hundreds of hours in conversations and meetings to try and keep the discussion active.

The bill’s possible expansion even became part of the conversation in Cannon’s middle school humanities class at Arbor School of Arts and Sciences in Portland where he teaches. He was able to hear his student’s opinions on different aspects of the legislation, and they were able to witness Cannon during a floor debate on the Bottle Bill at the capitol building.

“This isn’t a life or death issue, but it’s important to me and it’s an important part of Oregon’s reputation,” said Cannon. “This bill is a direct result of citizen action. It’s symbolic of what Oregonians care about, it’s bigger than recycling.”

Finally, after several drafts of the bill had been brought to the floor, the latest Bottle Bill expansion passed the House on May 4. Just weeks later, all of the work put into the bill paid off as it won the Senate’s vote on May 25, and it was sent off to Governor Kitzhaber’s desk where he signed it on June 9.

The expansion will require all containers between four ounces and one and a half liters to carry a deposit except for wine, liquor, milk and infant formula. It will also increase the deposit to ten cents per container if the redemption rate is below 80 percent for two consecutive calendar years, and no sooner than 2017. There is also a pilot program to create central container redemption centers in major cities, rather than simply using grocery store recycling centers.

Sea Lions or Dams? The Controversial Toss-Up

the-two-malcontents.com

– Laura Lundberg

Everyone loves sea lions. They’re cute, adorable faces; the way that they flop around on land in their attempts to move without the water they gracefully propel themselves through. The way they bark also seems to scream ‘water dog’ cuteness, as they let out growls and yips, much like our canine friends. Yet for the sea lions off of the coast of Washington and Oregon, they’re barking and cute days are coming to an end – quickly and violently.

The sea lions that hunt salmon near the Bonneville Dam, located between Washington and Oregon, are being killed for eating an endangered species of salmon that attempt to make their way back up the Columbia River to their spawning grounds. The NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) wrote in their report that the sea lions that live 140 miles off the coast of the mouth of the Columbia River have been killing thousands of steelhead and salmon, and that lethally removing them from the rivers mouth is the only way for the salmon species to survive. While some of the sea lions that are identified to be a problem to the salmon will be moved to zoos, the majority of sea lions will be euthanized. The Northwest’s regional administrator for the NOAA agency stated in their report that, “This is not an easy decision for our agency to make, but a thorough analysis shows that a small number of California sea lions preying on salmon and steelhead are having a significant effect on the ability of the fish stocks to recover…”

The authorization of the agency to kill or permanently relocate sea lions to zoos is only good until June of 2013; however NOAA has already begun working to make the authorization longer. Their authorization also only allows for them to take 85 sea lions annually (although NOAA said that it’s doubtful that they will take that many), a blessing to the sea lions that will allow for their populations to remain strong, and to perhaps deter them from visiting the Bonneville Dam to gorge on the salmon feast.

This issue has had groups and individuals supporting both the proposed method of killing sea lions and that of removing the dam, which has created a small controversy. Salmon advocates say that dams should be removed, which would allow for the sea lions to do as they are instinctually inclined to do and they would not be eating as many salmon. Also if the dams were removed the salmon wouldn’t be stuck trying to cross the man-made mammoth of a structure, thus allowing them to return to their spawning grounds naturally. Advocates of the proposed method, on the other hand, argue that the dam provides electricity, water, and jobs for the citizens of both Oregon and Washington and that removing the dam would take millions of dollars and years to deconstruct, and the salmon population would continue to be decimated.

A controversial issue to be sure, however the Bonneville Dam’s future is secured for now. Time will tell if the choice to euthanize and ship wild sea lions to zoos will be effective or not. Be sure to check out the NOAA Report, as well as an article that was published via TreeHugger.com about the killing of the sea lions.

Where do you lie on this issue? Tell us in the comment box below.

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Around the World on Biofuel

– Laura Lundberg

Deep in the heart of the southern hemisphere, in a bay in northwest New Zealand, lies the world’s most environmentally friendly boat. This boat has both a unique design, as well as a unique purpose. The boat is sleek in its design, although appearance isn’t all it’s made for. This vessel is meant to be a world record breaker, as well as a message to the world. Not only has this boat attempted to circumnavigate the globe the fastest, it also runs completely off of biodiesel, making this boat different from the rest.

Pete Bethune, who worked hard to build this boat with his team, started Earthrace. The construction of the boat took 14 months to build, and over 18,000 hours of labor were put into building what it is today. The boat itself is a tri-hull wave piercer that is only a narrow 24 meters (about 72 feet) long, and is streamlined as much as possible for speed. A unique feature of the Earthrace vessel is that it can submerge 23 feet underwater, in order to deal with heavy waves and storms. When construction was finished, the boat could travel about 14,921 miles at 6 knots. Another unique feature of Earthrace is that it runs on sustainably produced biodiesel, while parts of the Earthrace vessel itself are made out of hemp composite and carbon neutral fibers, meaning that Earthrace is 100% sustainable.

In 2007, Earthrace began its quest to beat the record for fastest time around the globe, though this attempt failed due to the fact that Japanese whaling vessels sank the first model. However, in 2008, Earthrace was rebuilt and once again attempted the world record, achieving it this time around. They began their challenge in Sagunto, Spain on April 27, 2008. Sixty days, twenty-three hours and forty-nine minutes later, Earthrace returned to Sagunto, triumphant at having broken the record by fourteen days – all while running completely on biofuel.

Since its 2008 world record challenge, the Earthrace project has been taking part in other environmental issues and projects, such as joining Sea Shepard – the anti-whaling boats and crew. Be sure to check out their website earthrace.net as it will have more information on the current missions, how the boat was built, as well as plenty of videos, one of which you can watch here.

Biosphere 2: Living in a closed ecosystem

– Laura Lundberg

The Arizona climate is a clash of hot and cold temperatures and is a dry arid climate with plants and wildlife that can live with little water. In the midst of this climate, however, there is a place where five very different ecosystems are present.  What is this place, pray tell? It’s known as the Biosphere 2, and it’s one of the first and only biospheres on the planet.

The building of the Biosphere 2 began in 1987 and is located between Pheonix, Arizona and Tuscon, Arizona. The biosphere was completed in 1990, and its purpose was to see if humans could live and function in a closed system that had several environments. It was also used to see if humans could potentially function on other planets inside these biospheres and live normally. While the mission was extremely ambitious, it was a failed project because there were many repairs that had to be done and maintaining the system and the relationships between the members inside the biosphere was taxing to the mission.

There are five different ecosystems inside the Biosphere 2. There is an ocean with coral reef ecosystem, a mangrove wetlands, a tropical rainforest, a savannah grassland, and finally, a fog desert. Each ecosystem is rich in its variety of flora, and it gave the members inside the biosphere a chance to be a part of every ecosystem.

There were two missions inside the Biosphere 2, one in 1991, and one in 1994. In the first mission, there were eight members of the biosphere crew that stayed inside the closed system for two years. Then in the 1994 mission there were seven crew members that stayed only six and a half months before the biosphere administration decided to change the direction of the mission, and so they were released from their closed system.

The Biosphere 2 is now owned by the University of Arizona and is used to study climate change. It’s also used to research ecological factors, as well as study the effects of carbon dioxide on plants. This incredibly fascinating experiment has brought about a variety of other uses for the Biosphere 2, and although it’s doubtful that any other mission will happen inside another biosphere, it does seem like an interesting way to live, if humans ever need to start living on other planets.

Be sure to check out the timeline of the Biosphere 2 that can be found on the Biosphere 2’s website, as well as an Associated Press report of Biosphere 2’s 20th birthday. And if you’re interested to know what it was like living in the Biosphere 2, be sure to check out this video called Biosphere 2: Our World that includes footage of the first mission.

University of Oregon Students Talk Sustainability at Powershift

– Laura Lundberg

Sustainability is something that the University of Oregon has gained a notable reputation for. The campus is nationally ranked for its green features, and every day students work hard to promote sustainability not only on campus, but in the community as well. Since today was Earth Day, many students were out and about working to make their campus and community a better place. Though a few students made their way across the country to represent their university and sustainability last weekend at Powershift.

Powershift is an event in which many environmental leaders and students from universities across the country travel to Washington DC to let their opinions be known about how to combat climate change. There were over 10,000 leaders at Powershift this year, including keynote speakers Al Gore, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, and 350.org founder Bill McKibben. The University of Oregon was also represented at Powershift this year through the student group on campus known as the Climate Justice League.

“Powershift was amazing this year. So many people came together to let DC know what we want to see happen, and how we should combat climate change. It was nice to have our voices be heard,” said Rachel Lytton, a student at the University of Oregon and a member of the Climate Justice League.

There was also a peaceful protest rally against BPA. Protesters gathered outside of a local BPA gas station to tell them that they should be paying for the damages that were caused in the gulf coast – not the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“The fight for clean energy and a green future is important to us, and that’s why we travelled to DC. We wanted to let people know that even in Oregon we have just as big ideas and demands for how to change our emission levels and what we want to see in renewable energies,” explained Tara Deakan, another youth leader who attended Powershift 2011.

Even though this year’s Earth Day is coming to an end, it is still important to realize that these issues surrounding the environment and climate change are happening each day, not just on Earth Day, and it’s important to let our voices be heard.

The Disaster in Japan: A brief timeline

– Tiana Bouma

On March 11, 2011 an 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck off the east coast of Honshu, Japan and has turned into the most expensive natural disaster in the world’s history. The earthquake, subsequent tsunami, and following nuclear power plant issues have created over $300 billion dollars in costs and stolen the lives of 27,000 individuals.

One of the largest issues Japan has faced is the prevention of potential nuclear power plant meltdowns. The overload of news reports and information on the disaster made it hard for me to sort through exactly what was happening, when, and where. So I decided to make a timeline so that maybe others who feel the same can have a better idea of the day-by-day events going on in Japan.

Timeline

March 11 – Four nuclear plants closest to the earthquake were safely shut down.

  • Heightened state of alert declared for Fukushima-Daiichi plant.
  • Tsunami flooding disabled diesel generators intended to provide back-up electricity to plant’s cooling system.
  • Fire at Onagawa plant extinguished.

March 12 – Evacuation of residents living within 20 km of Fukushima Daiichi plant (about 170,000 people) and residents living within 10 km of Fukushima-Daini plant (about 30,000 people).

  • Explosion at Unit 1 reactor of Fukushima-Daiichi primary containment vessel and four workers injured, outer shell of containment was lost.

March 13 – Fukushima-Daini units 1, 2, and 4 retain off-site power and unit 3 is in a safe, cold shutdown.

  • Three workers injured in various ways at Fukushima-Daiichi.
  • One worker is exposed to higher-than-normal radiation levels at Fukushima-Daiichi.

March 14 – Hydrogen explosion at Unit 3 reactor at Fukushima-Daiichi plant.

  • Six people injured and the reactor building exploded but the PCV wasn’t damaged.

March 15 – Fukushima-Daini, Onagawa, and Tokai nuclear power plants are in safe and stable shutdown.

  • Explosion at Unit 2 reactor at Fukushima-Daiichi.
  • Spent fuel storage pond at Unit 4 was on fire and radioactivity was directly released into atmosphere.
  • 6.1 earthquake in Eastern Honshu, Japan.

March 16 – Fire at reactor 4 at Fukushima-Daiichi.

March 17

  • Radiological contamination – Nine TEPCO employees and eight subcontractor employees suffered from deposition of radioactive material to their faces.
  • One worker suffered significant exposure during “vent work” and was transported to an off-site center.
  • Two policemen exposed to radiation were decontaminated and firemen who were exposed are under investigation.
  • At Fukushima-Daiichi unit 4 remains major safety concern.

March 18 – At Fukushima-Daiichi plant, workers opened holes in the roofs of Units 5 & 6 to prevent possible accumulation of hydrogen.

March 19 – Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare confirmed presence of radioactive iodine contamination in food products in Fukushima Prefecture.

  • Containment vessel pressure indication was restored for Unit 1 at Fukushima-Daiichi.

March 20 – Units 5 & 6 at Fukushima-Daiichi plant are in cold shutdown and stable.

March 22 – High levels of radioactivity in food, notably spinach, in samples taken from 37 places in five cities south of Fukushima site.

  • Distribution of food restricted.
  • TEPCO detected radioactive materials in seawater near southern discharge canal at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant.

March 23 – AC power available to Units 1, 2, and 4, power restored to instruments in all units except 3.

  • Pressure in reactor pressure vessel and drywell if Unit 3 is stable.
  • Radiation dose rate at Daiichi decreased.
  • Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare encouraged Ibaraki and Chiba Prefecture to monitor seafood products.
  • No significant risk to human health was verified.

March 24 – Three workers at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant were exposed to elevated levels of radiation.

  • Two workers hospitalized for treatment of severely contaminated feet had been working for about 3 hours in contact with contaminated water.

March 25 – Unit 1 is reported as stable by Japanese authorities.

  • Work is underway for the recovery of lightning and instrumental systems on the common spent pool.
  • Milk is restricted in Fukushima and Ibaraki Prefectures.
  • Certain vegetables are restricted in four prefectures (Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Gunma).

March 26 – Fresh water has replaced seawater to cool the reactor pressure vessels at Units 1, 2, and 3 at Fukushima plant.

March 27 – Earthquake of 6.5 magnitude of coast of Honshu.

March 28 – Radioactivity in environment, food, and water is a matter of concern and there is a need for further comprehensive monitoring.

March 29 – Accumulated contaminated water found in trenches close to turbine buildings of Units 1-3.

March 31 – Unit 1 condenser is full and pumping water from the turbine-building basement to the condenser has been stopped.

  • The Russian Federation, Ireland, and Switzerland reported detection of very small amounts of radiation in the air, not of any radiological concern.

April 1 – Food restrictions placed.

  • Fukushima: Distribution and consumption of leafy vegetables and unprocessed raw milk.
  • Ibaraki: Distribution of spinach, kakina, parsley, and unprocessed raw milk.
  • Gunma: Distribution of spinach and kakina.
  • Tochigi: Distribution of spinach and kakina.

April 2 – Water in the condenser storage tank of Unit 1 was transferred to surge tank of the suppression pool and water in the trench was transferred to a water tank at central environmental facility main building.

  • There was a crack in sidewall of pit of Unit 2 reactor and water was leaking directly into the sea.

April 3 – A second US Navy barge arrived carrying fresh water to be transferred to a “filtered water tank”.

  • Concrete poured and polymer injected to prevent leak in wall of Unit 2 reactor.
  • Units 1, 2, and 3 switched to external power supply.

April 4 – Leakage in Unit 2 Turbine building has not stopped.

  • Discharged 11,500 tons of low level radioactive water from Fukushima-Daiichi plant into sea.
  • Plan to release 10,000 tons of water from a waste treatment facility and 1,500 tons from drainage pits around reactors 5 & 6 and the operation was planned to last around 5 days.

April 5 – Leak of highly contaminated water from cable storage pit in Unit 2 was stopped due to measures taken by workers.

April 6 – Power is available to instrumentation in Unit 3 and TEPCO authorized to begin injection of nitrogen into PCV of Unit 1 at Fukushima plant.

April 7 – 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Japan, epicenter 20 km away from Onagawa nuclear power plant.

April 8 – Food restrictions in four prefectures (Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Gunma) and in certain locations in Chiba prefecture continue.

April 10 – In units 1, 2, and 3 of Fukushima Daiichi plant 60,000 tons of contaminated water was removed from turbine buildings and trenches.

  • Temporary storage tanks ordered to provide additional capacity for water.

April 11 – 6.6 magnitude earthquake in Japan, epicenter 68 km from Daiichi nuclear power plant.

April 17 & 18 – An unmanned robot was used to conduct inspections of the Reactor Buildings in Units 1, 2 and 3.

April 22 – Area within 20 km of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is announced as a no entry zone.

Harnessing the Waves

– Laura Lundberg

Many inventions of renewable technologies are on the rise while a great number of organizations are working towards finding a clean source of energy that will sustain our way of life after our coal and oil resources deplete. There is one power that has been tapped into that could sustain us far longer than coal and oil, and it too harnesses a natural source of energy. This is the natural power of the ocean and its waves.

Harnessing the waves energy is something that has only recently been invested in. While there have been attempts to capture this energy dating back as early as 1890, it was in 2008 that the very first wave power farm opened on the coast of Portugal. While wave power is not as efficient as wind energy, it is something that is open to scientific research and has much room for improvement.

Here in the Northwest, Ocean Power Technologies has bought into the idea. The company deploys buoys into the ocean, which then capture the energy of the oceanic currents and convert the current energy into low cost electricity. The energy is then transmitted via an underwater cable and the electricity from the waves is delivered to a power grid onshore.

There is another project in the works, also by Ocean Power Technologies, to build the first commercial wave farm in the US, harvesting energy off of the Pacific Ocean’s currents. This wave farm will be based in Reedsport, Oregon, and could potentially generate enough electricity to power several hundred homes in the state.  The wave farm is still in the process of being constructed, and although it is in the first stages of development as far as scientific research goes, Ocean Power Technologies hopes that this wave farm can open the door to more discoveries about wave power harvesting to make it more productive and cost efficient in the future.