How to Advance Offshore Wind and Energy Efficiency
Rising costs, energy efficiency and environmental impact demand innovations in energy generation, distribution, management and usage. UL’s team of dedicated scientists, engineers and researchers are developing New Science to make energy cleaner, more reliable, more efficient and more secure.
Measuring Offshore Wind Power
Through measurement sensor technology and the most extensive data to date, UL is collaborating with public and private stakeholders in Germany to accelerate the advancement of offshore wind power.
UL's work with the Research at Alpha Ventus (RAVE) program delivers important knowledge needed for a vision of the future—a future where large and powerful offshore wind farms and other forms of sustainable energy generation will soon deliver a substantial portion of the electricity in Germany that used to be provided by nuclear power plants. Insights and experience that we gain from this project may also facilitate a broader pursuit of offshore wind generation around the world.
On the heels of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, Germany passed a historic package of laws that commits the nation to a phase-out of nuclear power by 2022. In order to realize the bold goals of this unprecedented Sustainable Energy plan, successful, environmentally responsible and economically feasible generation of offshore wind power is critical.
Onshore wind power, though an important element in an overall renewable energy plan, does not have the potential that offshore wind power presents in the North and Baltic seas. Offshore, the wind speeds are greater than on land throughout the year, and there is less turbulence. It is also not necessary to limit the size of the wind turbines. On the other hand, there are greater investment and operating costs, and the maintenance and repair are considerably more complex than on land. To further complicate the issue, since Germany’s near-shore maritime areas are almost entirely protected as nature conservation areas, only areas in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) can be considered for offshore wind energy (i.e., beyond the 12-mile zone). This means that, in comparison with those of its European neighbors, these wind farms will be situated farther away from the coast and at greater depths, creating conditions so different from other wind farms that it requires a completely new approach to equipment, operational procedures, maintenance, measurement and reintegration of Sustainable Energy into the power grid. During the next few years, a dozen large-scale wind farms are being installed far off the coast of Germany in the North and Baltic seas. These are already earmarked to make up more than one-third of Germany’s installed wind energy output by 2020.
Advancing the Smart Grid
UL is participating in a pioneering smart grid research project, Pecan Street Demonstration, compiling the industry’s most extensive database of consumer electricity consumption practices.
With investment in grid modernization, waste in the electrical system can be reduced by 31 percent. In addition, making consumers more aware of safe electricity production and consumption as well as the impact on economic and environmental outcomes will speed up acceptance and adoption of advanced technology innovations. By focusing our New Science on emerging smart grid technologies, UL is able to appropriately document the necessary processes, standards, best practices, rules and methodologies that will serve as a blueprint for safe smart grid technology implementation.
The price of meeting the world’s energy demands is estimated at $26.3 trillion through 2030—an average of more than $1 trillion a year. Waste in the current electrical system in the U.S. costs roughly $500 billion a year. Costs from storm related outages to the U.S. economy are estimated between $20 billion and $55 billion annually, and losses from power-line damage total $150 billion a year.
A smart grid is a digitally enabled electrical grid that gathers, distributes and acts on information about the behavior of all participants (suppliers and consumers) in order to improve the efficiency, importance, reliability, economics and sustainability of electricity services. Used in tandem with smart meters, solar panels, wind turbines, inverters, energy storage devices, electric vehicles and home energy management systems, smart grids are rapidly changing the power landscape and the rules of engagement.
The Safety of Smart Appliances
UL developed and published a series of Certification Requirement Decisions for Smart Appliances, based on findings around emerging product capabilities, potential user behaviors and safety implications.
Smart appliances play a critical role in achieving the full potential of smart grid infrastructure to reduce energy use and costs and enhance the reliability of the power supply. At this early stage in the development of the smart appliance industry, when product capabilities and consumer usage patterns are evolving, it was imperative for UL to both facilitate manufacturer innovation and consumer safety. Ultimately, this will help consumers around the world reap the benefits of smart appliances.
Demand for smart-enabled or smart appliances is expected to undergo explosive growth over the next several years. Two factors are fueling these expectations. First, the proliferation of smartphones is creating marketplace demand for “smart” features, including expanded functionality and anytime, anywhere convenience. The second factor is rising energy costs, coupled with the fact that electrical appliances account for a significant portion of home energy use. Given these factors, the nascent smart appliance market is projected to expand by 394 percent over five years, surpassing $15 billion in sales globally by 2015. The U.S. is expected to constitute 36 percent of that market.
Facilitated by the build-out of smart grid infrastructure and the adoption of smart meters, smart appliances use advanced electronic and communications technologies to enable consumers to closely monitor, control and reduce energy use and costs. Six core capabilities broadly define the energy-related characteristics of smart appliances:
- Providing real-time electricity pricing information, which allows the consumer to adjust or reschedule appliance usage to reduce energy costs.
- Enabling consumers to set their own operating parameters (e.g., when and at what settings the appliance should run), facilitating usage during off-peak periods.
- Offering consumers the opportunity to take advantage of utility incentives without compromising the appliance’s critical safety functions.
- Responding to emergency power situations and helping prevent brownouts or blackouts — without compromising its operational integrity.
- Interacting with a home energy management system, which enables a consumer to conveniently monitor and manage the home’s overall energy usage.
- Facilitating the use of energy from renewable sources, such as wind or solar, by shifting demand to capitalize on favorable generation conditions.
While the first commercially available smart appliance came on the market in 2009, the smart appliance category—which holds such great promise of energy and cost savings for consumers—is still in its infancy in terms of total penetration of the consumer market. New manufacturers are entering the picture and continued advancement is in progress. Because of this, user behavior in response to new technology and functionality is largely unknown and can be very difficult to accurately predict.
As new smart appliance capabilities and other innovations are established through the application of advanced technologies, new consumer behaviors may emerge. Because of this, unforeseen product safety issues could arise that are not fully addressed in current end-product standards. Appropriately anticipating this product safety gap presented a unique situation for UL. Product safety standards must address product design and use and respond to continued advancements as they develop.
NEW CHALLENGES CALL FOR NEW SCIENCE
New Science is dedicated to mitigating risks and safeguarding innovation. Progress is an unstoppable, transformative force. New technologies, product advances and globalization are arriving one on top of another at a dizzying pace. Innovation makes us more efficient, more productive and more connected. But there is a cost, and that cost is risk. UL is currently focusing our New Science efforts around four important themes. These include: Fire Safety, Indoor Air Quality, Transaction Security and Sustainable Energy.
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By Sharon Zhang
Back in March, when the pandemic had just planted its roots in the U.S., President Donald Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do something devastating: The agency was to indefinitely and cruelly suspend environmental rule enforcement. The EPA complied, and for just under half a year, it provided over 3,000 waivers that granted facilities clemency from state-level environmental rule compliance.
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By Bob Jacobs
Hanako, a female Asian elephant, lived in a tiny concrete enclosure at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo for more than 60 years, often in chains, with no stimulation. In the wild, elephants live in herds, with close family ties. Hanako was solitary for the last decade of her life.
Hanako, an Asian elephant kept at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo; and Kiska, an orca that lives at Marineland Canada. One image depicts Kiska's damaged teeth. Elephants in Japan (left image), Ontario Captive Animal Watch (right image), CC BY-ND
Affecting Health and Altering Behavior<p>It is easy to observe the overall health and psychological consequences of life in captivity for these animals. Many captive elephants suffer from arthritis, obesity or skin problems. Both <a href="https://doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o2620.1826-36" target="_blank">elephants</a> and orcas often have severe dental problems. Captive orcas are plagued by <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.05.005" target="_blank">pneumonia, kidney disease, gastrointestinal illnesses and infections</a>.</p><p>Many animals <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.09.010" target="_blank">try to cope</a> with captivity by adopting abnormal behaviors. Some develop "<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.05.003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stereotypies</a>," which are repetitive, purposeless habits such as constantly bobbing their heads, swaying incessantly or chewing on the bars of their cages. Others, especially big cats, pace their enclosures. Elephants rub or break their tusks.</p>
Changing Brain Structure<p>Neuroscientific research indicates that living in an impoverished, stressful captive environment <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.05.005" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">physically damages the brain</a>. These changes have been documented in many <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.903270108" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">species</a>, including rodents, rabbits, cats and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2001.0917" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">humans</a>.</p><p>Although researchers have directly studied some animal brains, most of what we know comes from observing animal behavior, analyzing stress hormone levels in the blood and applying knowledge gained from a half-century of neuroscience research. Laboratory research also suggests that mammals in a zoo or aquarium have compromised brain function.</p>
This illustration shows differences in the brain's cerebral cortex in animals held in impoverished (captive) and enriched (natural) environments. Impoverishment results in thinning of the cortex, a decreased blood supply, less support for neurons and decreased connectivity among neurons. Arnold B. Scheibel, CC BY-ND<p>Subsisting in confined, barren quarters that lack intellectual stimulation or appropriate social contact seems to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1590/S0001-37652001000200006" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">thin the cerebral cortex</a> – the part of the brain involved in voluntary movement and higher cognitive function, including memory, planning and decision-making.</p><p>There are other consequences. Capillaries shrink, depriving the brain of the oxygen-rich blood it needs to survive. Neurons become smaller, and their dendrites – the branches that form connections with other neurons – become less complex, impairing communication within the brain. As a result, the cortical neurons in captive animals <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.901230110" target="_blank">process information less efficiently</a> than those living in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/dev.420020208" target="_blank">enriched, more natural environments</a>.</p>
An actual cortical neuron in a wild African elephant living in its natural habitat compared with a hypothesized cortical neuron from a captive elephant. Bob Jacobs, CC BY-ND<p>Brain health is also affected by living in small quarters that <a href="https://doi.org/10.3233/BPL-160040" target="_blank">don't allow for needed exercise</a>. Physical activity increases the flow of blood to the brain, which requires large amounts of oxygen. Exercise increases the production of new connections and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaw2622" target="_blank">enhances cognitive abilities</a>.</p><p>In their native habits these animals must move to survive, covering great distances to forage or find a mate. Elephants typically travel anywhere from <a href="https://www.elephantsforafrica.org/elephant-facts/#:%7E:text=How%20far%20do%20elephants%20walk,km%20on%20a%20daily%20basis." target="_blank">15 to 120 miles per day</a>. In a zoo, they average <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0150331" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">three miles daily</a>, often walking back and forth in small enclosures. One free orca studied in Canada swam <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-010-0958-x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">up to 156 miles a day</a>; meanwhile, an average orca tank is about 10,000 times smaller than its <a href="https://www.cascadiaresearch.org/projects/killer-whales/using-dtags-study-acoustics-and-behavior-southern" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">natural home range</a>.</p>
Disrupting Brain Chemistry and Killing Cells<p>Living in enclosures that restrict or prevent normal behavior creates chronic frustration and boredom. In the wild, an animal's stress-response system helps it escape from danger. But captivity traps animals with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1215502109" target="_blank">almost no control</a> over their environment.</p><p>These situations foster <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/rev0000033" target="_blank">learned helplessness</a>, negatively impacting the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/6391686" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hippocampus</a>, which handles memory functions, and the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.02.024" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">amygdala</a>, which processes emotions. Prolonged stress <a href="https://doi.org/10.3109/10253899609001092" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevates stress hormones</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.10-09-02897.1990" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">damages or even kills neurons</a> in both brain regions. It also disrupts the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2005.03.021" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">delicate balance of serotonin</a>, a neurotransmitter that stabilizes mood, among other functions.</p><p>In humans, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2001.0917" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">deprivation</a> can trigger <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00367" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">psychiatric issues</a>, including depression, anxiety, <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00367" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mood disorders</a> or <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1073858409333072" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">post-traumatic stress disorder</a>. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-010-0288-3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Elephants</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0050139" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">orcas</a> and other animals with large brains are likely to react in similar ways to life in a severely stressful environment.</p>
Damaged Wiring<p>Captivity can damage the brain's complex circuitry, including the basal ganglia. This group of neurons communicates with the cerebral cortex along two networks: a direct pathway that enhances movement and behavior, and an indirect pathway that inhibits them.</p><p>The repetitive, <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2014.05.057" target="_blank">stereotypic behaviors</a> that many animals adopt in captivity are caused by an imbalance of two neurotransmitters, dopamine and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.02.004" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">serotonin</a>. This impairs the indirect pathway's ability to modulate movement, a condition documented in species from chickens, cows, sheep and horses to primates and big cats.</p>
The cerebral cortex, hippocampus and amygdala are physically altered by captivity, along with brain circuitry that involves the basal ganglia. Bob Jacobs, CC BY-ND<p>Evolution has constructed animal brains to be exquisitely responsive to their environment. Those reactions can affect neural function by <a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/311787/behave-by-robert-m-sapolsky/" target="_blank">turning different genes on or off</a>. Living in inappropriate or abusive circumstance alters biochemical processes: It disrupts the synthesis of proteins that build connections between brain cells and the neurotransmitters that facilitate communication among them.</p><p>There is strong evidence that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0577-11.2011" target="_blank">enrichment</a>, social contact and appropriate space in more natural habitats are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-1090.2003.tb02071.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">necessary</a> for long-lived animals with large brains such as <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0152490" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elephants</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/13880292.2017.1309858" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cetaceans</a>. Better conditions <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5543669/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduce disturbing sterotypical behaviors</a>, improve connections in the brain, and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/cdd.2009.193" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">trigger neurochemical changes</a> that enhance learning and memory.</p>