A new study has found that sea level rise is accelerating three to four times faster along the densely populated east coast of the US than other US coasts. The Guardian reports that the zone, dubbed a “hotspot” by the scientists behind the research, means the ocean from Boston to New York to North Carolina is set to experience a rise up a third greater than that seen globally. “That makes storm surges that much higher and the reach of the waves that crash onto the coast that much higher,” said Asbury Sallenger, who led the study at the US geological survey at St Petersburg, Florida. “In terms of people and communities preparing for these things, there are extreme regional variations and we need to keep that in mind. We can’t view sea level rise as uniform, like filling up a bath tub. Some places will rise quicker than others and the whole urban corridor of north-east US is one of these places.”
The hotspot, previously predicted by computer modelling, has been confirmed by the study – “the first to focus on using real data to show [the acceleration] is happening now and that we can detect it now,” said Sallenger. The phenomenon may be driven by cold dense water sinking in the Arctic, while the warming of the oceans and the flood of less dense freshwater into the Arctic from Greenland’s melting glaciers means the water sinks less quickly. That means a “slope” from the fastest-moving water in the mid-Atlantic down to the US east coast relaxes, pushing up sea level on the coast. And the impact of all this, says the scientists, is potentially devastating. “As an example, 1 metre of sea level rise could raise the frequency of severe flooding for New York City from once per century to once every three years,” said Rahmstorf, adding that low lying countries like Bangladesh are likely to be severely affected. Sallenger and team also showed that the extreme acceleration in sea level rise could add 20-30 per cent to the rise seen globally. “If this turns out to be a metre by 2100, it would add 20 to 30cm.”
Green Rock’s geothermal funding win
ASX-listed geothermal contender Green Rock Energy has been awarded a state government grant of $5.38 million to help fund its Mid West Geothermal Power Project. The West Perth-based company says its success with the WA government grant – awarded via its Low Emissions Energy Development program (LEED) – will strengthen its case for funding from the Commonwealth’s Emerging Renewables Program, which puts a strong emphasis on State support. The Mid West Geothermal Power Project – based on substantial geothermal resources close to infrastructure – builds on Green Rock’s alliance with Pacific Hydro, and its agreement with New World Energy to jointly develop geothermal exploration permits in the Mid West. The company says good progress is being made to select the most prospective drilling location, targeting the first well in 2013.
“Our objective is to have the majority of at least the first well costs covered by LEED and Emerging Renewables Program funds,” said Green Rock executive chairman Richard Beresford. “This would address the lack of private investor appetite in Australia for the drilling necessary to demonstrate commercial production of geothermal energy. However, once demonstrated in the Mid West, we are confident that industry and utility investors will recognise the value of the very large geothermal resource and its proximity to existing power infrastructure and a rapidly-growing energy market in the Mid West Region.”
Another UK win for Ceramic
Ceramic Fuel Cells’ BlueGen gas-to-power generator has been chosen by one of the UK’s leading home builders to be installed in a low-carbon demonstration home. Crest Nicholson has installed a BlueGen unit in a four bedroom family home in a development on the outskirts of Epsom, Surrey, marking the UK’s first ever installation of a microgeneration certificate scheme (MCS) accredited micro power and heat fuel cell in a new build home – providing power, heating and hot water. The project aims to demonstrate how new houses can meet the energy efficiency levels of the Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4, cutting carbon emissions by 44 per cent from 2006 levels. In 2016, all homes sent to planning will be required to be “zero carbon”, meaning the building fabric of the home and onsite power and heat generation must cut emissions by at least 70 per cent from 2006 levels, equivalent to zero net carbon emissions from regulated energy, which is that used for heating, hot water, lighting and building (services) consumption, over the course of a year.
The BlueGen unit – which will provide all the heat for the home – is the only fuel cell product eligible for the UK feed-in tariff, which provides a payment to customers for power generated on-site and exported back to the grid. Each unit can save up to 4 tonnes of carbon per year. The peak electrical efficiency of BlueGen is up to 60 per cent, far higher than any other small-scale generating technology in the world. With the added benefit of heat, total efficiency is up to 85 percent and may be even higher in such low energy homes. Ceramic chief Brendan Dow says the project – by of the UK’s leading developers of new homes, building approximately 1,500 new homes each year – opens up a large market for BlueGen, demonstrating that the fuel cell technology can provide all the heating for a new home, and is not restricted to the market for replacement boilers.