Friday Cocktail: Smart Wind, Sun for the Poor, Sinking TV

| Fri May 1, 2009 5:36 PM EDT

Round 1: Smart turbine blades improve wind power. That's the hope of researchers using sensors and computational software to constantly monitor forces on wind turbine blades and rapidly adjust to changing wind conditions. Engineers at Purdue U and Sandia National Laboratories believe a smarter turbine can also provide critical real-time information to prevent damage from high winds.

The sensor-embedded blades are now being tested at a USDA lab in Texas. The sensors will help develop future blades with control surfaces and simple flaps capable of changing the aerodynamics, something like an airplane wing. The US is now the largest harvester of wind energy in the world, surpassing Germany. But the question remains: How to make wind energy safer for birds and bats. We need smart tech on that too.

Round 2: Some 70 percent of rural households in India lacks electricity and more than 60 percent use kerosene lamps for lighting. Kerosene is expensive, inefficient, potentially dangerous, and a major source of greenhouse gases. On the other hand, India averages 250 to 300 sunny days a year. Solar could provide a greater equivalence of energy than the country’s total consumption.

The nonprofit Sadguru Foundation supplied 100 solar lanterns to socially and economically disadvantaged households in 25 Gujarati villages, 70 percent of which are connected to the power grid but don’t receive power in the morning or evening when energy is redirected to cities. The lanterns reduced villagers’ expenditures on kerosene and electricity between $150 and $250 a year. That particularly benefited schoolchildren and women who received six hours of clean dependable light during times at home they really need it. Seems like an idea worth growing.

Round 3: As I wrote some time back, the Pacific nation of Tuvalu—all nine coral atolls of it—is suffering from rising sea levels. Now boingboing via Wreck & Salvage reports that Internet domain registrar GoDaddy is advising against buying a .net domain name. Why? Because Tuvalu owns and leases all .tv names—its country code. Don't buy, says GoDaddy, "because it’s sinking." Which floats the question: What becomes of the meager resources of a tiny nation when and if that nation no longer has any landmass to call its own? Maybe if we allocate enough of Round 1 & 2 (above), when Tuvalu does inevitably disappear beneath the waves, there will be a clean new homeland thay can still call .tv.