According to Space Safety Magazine, about 75% of China’s electricity is now produced by coal-fired power plants, but a typical coal train of more than a kilometre long, carrying 5,000 tonnes of coal, could be replaced by just 40 grams of helium-3 (He-3), dramatically reducing transportation costs. Just eight tonnes of He-3 in nuclear fusion reactors would provide the equivalent energy of one billion tonnes of coal, burned in power stations. He-3 is extremely rare on Earth, but exists in abundance on the Moon, and the Chinese leadership has already begun an ambitious program to acquire it. Professor Ouyang Ziyuan, the chief scientist of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program says the Moon is so rich in He-3, mining it could “solve humanity’s energy demand for around 10,000 years at least.” It is estimated that reserves of helium-3 across our planet amount to just 15 tonnes. The Moon, on the other hand, has reserves estimated at between one and five million tonnes. See China’s Helium-3 Program: A Global Game-Changer and China Is Winning the 21st Century Space Race.

India’s Ministry of Shipping is in the process of installing solar and wind based electric power systems at major ports across the country. By next year it plans to construct 90.6 megawatts  (MW) of solar energy capacity at the nation’s 12 major ports and 70 MW of wind energy capacity at four major ports. The projects are a part of the Green Port Initiative launched by the Ministry of Shipping designed to reduce the cost of power at these ports.

The US state of New York announced it will aim to generate half of its electric power requirements from renewable sources by the year 2030. The plan will rely on large subsidies to nuclear power plants to help reduce the state’s reliance on fossil fuels. In the first two years, the nuclear subsidies will total an estimated $965 million, a figure that could grow to $7.6 billion over 12 years.  Currently the state generates about a quarter of its energy from renewable sources.

There are reports Uber will be rolling out specially modified, self-driving Volvo XC90 SUVs in the US city of Pittsburgh later this month. Uber riders that end up with with one of these self-driving Volvos will be getting a free ride for the time being. The new LIDAR-equipped Volvo XC90s are not autonomous per se as they will be chaperoned by a human driver who’ll be able to take over in case of problems, and by a co-pilot in the passanger seat who observes. A number of cameras, radar, and GPS receivers feature in the new vehicles’ self-driving sensor suite in addition to the LIDAR. (LIDAR is a surveying detection system that works on the principle of radar, but uses light from a laser.)

The MIT Technology Review explains why range anxiety for electric vehicles is “overblown”. A new study by researchers at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that currently available electric cars in the US could replace 87% of the existing passanger vehicles on the road and still get drivers where they need to go (and back again). Assuming battery technology improves in line with government estimates, by 2020 up to 98% of these vehicles could be replaced.

In the US, the California Energy Commission has approved a pilot program in which piezoelectric crystals will be installed on several freeways. About the size of watch batteries, the crystals give off an electrical discharge when they’re mechanically stressed, such as when a vehicle drives over them. When driven over by thousands of vehicles an electric current is generated that can be harvested to feed power to the state grid. Scientists estimate the energy generated from piezoelectric crystals on a 10-mile stretch of freeway could provide power for the entire city of Burbank (population: more than 105,000).

Last week, Russia’s ambassador to Iran revealed Ukraine will no longer be a major energy route to Europe. Russia has plans for a new route which will sidestep Ukraine. In an interview Levan Jagarian said:  “We now have a new project and a new energy route through Turkey and Greece to southern Europe. This would effectively set aside Ukraine as a player in energy security.”

 

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