Archive for November, 2008|Monthly archive page

Electricity, Geography and Society

[This is a revised version of an earlier post with the politics removed.]
mini nuke
Hyperion Power Generation, Inc., headed by John Grizz Deal, former CEO of LizardTech, has developed a mini nuclear reactor.

Invented at the famed Los Alamos National Laboratory, Hyperion small modular power reactors make all the benefits of safe, clean nuclear power available for remote locations. For both industrial and community applications, Hyperion offers reliable energy with no greenhouse gas emissions. Hyperion power is also cheaper than fossil fuels and, when you consider the cost of land and materials, watt to watt, Hyperion’s innovative energy technology is even more affordable than many developing “alternative” energy technologies.

If this works as advertised, it could have a huge impact on developing countries. The challenge in distributing electricity to rural areas is the transmission loss. To reduce the loss due to resistance, power is transmitted at a higher voltage. The drawback to high voltage transmission is that it requires expensive transformers – something most small villages cannot afford. By moving generation closer to where it is consumed, transmission becomes a non-issue.

Projects to build generation capacity in the developing world have had a lot of problems with corruption and environmental damage. Projects that build distribution capacity, however, have had a very good impact. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) has had an excellent track record in starting cooperatives in developing countries based on principles used in cooperatives here in the US. The key to this success has been member ownership. If Hyperion is feasible, I think it could very well allow cooperatives to own their own generation.


Routing Around Dangerous Bridges

bridge collapse
I35-W Bridge Collapse of 2007 (USA today)

Here‘s a map showing bridge ratings around Minnesota. Many of which have gusset plates similar to those blamed in the bridge collapse last year in Minneapolis.

It would be interesting to see a web map routing app that allowed me to arbitrarily specify a URL of barriers. For example when I click the Directions button in Google Maps, it would offer me an option to specify a barriers URL. If there were a web service standard to support this, Google could then generate directions that avoid particular bridges.

Google Trend Mapping

google trends
Google Flu Trends is an interesting concept: Make a map where each state is shaded based on frequency of searches for flu-related search terms. I wonder what a Google Chapter 11 Trends map might look like.

Seems like Google Trends could use the same approach for other things. They could provide a heat map at the bottom of each trend detail page to see where the trend is hotter. In Google Trends for Websites I can drill down to the state level, but I don’t see a way to get a trend line for a particular state.

I wonder if Google is considering a service whereby a user pays to have trends tracked for a list of search words.