May 17, 2020

Hydrogen gas gets reindeer flying

Admin
3 min
Santa's reindeer in flight
[email protected] Make sure to check out the latest issue of Energy Digital magazine By Deb Hodgkin There is a very good reason Santa lives at the N...

Make sure to check out the latest issue of Energy Digital magazine 

By Deb Hodgkin

There is a very good reason Santa lives at the North Pole – that is the native habitat of the Flying Reindeer, Rangifer tarandus volaris. Without these unique creatures Santa could not make it around the world to deliver presents.

While there are many flying animals that could help Santa pull the sleigh, reindeer have the advantage that they are already well adapted to extreme cold because they live in Arctic regions. This allows them to fly very high and take advantage of the thinner atmosphere to go quickly.

Hydrogen lift

The Flying Reindeer have co-opted normal ruminant anatomy to achieve lift.  Ruminants like cows have four stomachs to help them break down reindeer grass and especially cellulose. However, in areas where reindeer live they have had to switch their diet because of the very sparse vegetation.

Much of Scandinavia was covered by glaciers in the last ice age which scoured away the arable soil, leaving very old crystalline rocks. These rocks support lichen, the main diet of the reindeer. The lichen is also breaking down the rocks, which contain many mineral deposits including iron, copper, nickel, zinc, silver and gold, and the reindeer eat large amounts of metals along with their normal food.

Metals react with acid, including stomach acid, to produce hydrogen gas, and when they want to fly the Flying Reindeer collect and store this gas in another of their stomachs which is able to greatly enlarge. Hydrogen is of course lighter than air, and allows the reindeer to lift in the same way as Zeppelins did.

Forward movement

Once in the air, the reindeer need to move forward. They do this by taking advantage of a cold weather adaptation, their thick fur coat. The Flying Reindeer have developed the coat on their legs to be extremely thick and long, with dense matted inner fur and long smooth guard hairs as an outer layer.  This configuration allows their legs to act as oars or paddles and they can ‘row’ through the air.

Lichen light

The Flying Reindeer has another advantage for Santa, although technically it is not the reindeer but their food. Many of the lichens the reindeer eat are phosphorescent, which means they glow in the dark. In winter reindeer find their food by using their noses to push aside the snow covering the lichens.

This means they are rubbing their noses across the lichen and many small glowing particles get stuck to their nose and muzzle. The effect looks as if their nose is glowing and allows them to see at night.

Deb Hodgkin, based in Australia, is a kids' science blogger, science teacher, mum to two, and creator of the website www.science-at-home.org .

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Jul 26, 2021

Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April

Ofwat
Utilities
water
prices
Dominic Ellis
3 min
Ofwat confirms levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue

Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.

The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.

Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.  

In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue. 

Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”  

There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:   

  1. Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps. 
  2. Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold. 
  3. Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice. 

Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.

Anita Dougall, CEO and Founding Partner at Sagacity, said Ofwat’s decision comes hot on the heels of Ofgem’s price cap rise in April.

"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.

"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."

United Utilities picks up pipeline award

A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.

The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.

“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.

Camus Energy secures $16m funding

Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent VenturesWave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.

As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.

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